flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘emotional contagion

An example of a social network diagram.
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Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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The snow brought the people out .  .  . to talk

Today it snowed in the UK – a lot for us.  When I drew the curtains, I thought for a moment my car had been stolen.  It was just buried!

Later on in the morning, I walked down to the shopping centre to see if some of the members of Olney100, a community social network for the town of Olney, England, needed my help.  A suprising number of people had driven.  Others, like me, walked and there was an unusual number of people dallying in the supermarket and in the coffee shop.  Unsurprisingly, given the economic circumstances and my interest in promoting Olney100, we began talking about how we should arrange our affairs in what is a downturn of unknown magnitude and unknown duration.

So what is your view?  What is your recession speed?

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous and I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries and I will see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I am going to wait and see.  I choose to be optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

I suspect, well I know, that there will be very many more people rating themselves 1-4 than 5.

If we differ in our response, are we wrong?  Should we converge?  Or can we benefit from the variation in our opinions?

Can I ask you this?

Who are three people who give you the most support?  And what is their recession speed?

Does their recession speed help you and does your recession speed help them?

I’d be interested to know.

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Spread a smile

This morning, I quite fortuitously stumbled a charming little video around the theme “smile and the world will smile with you“.

Without spoiling the story,  a parking attendant sets the whole world smiling while he validates tickets at his counter in his gloomy, underground office.  Ostensibly, this is a touchy-feely, Polyanna-type, love story of a hero’s journey in 16.5 minutes.  The hero hears a call and sets off to ‘win the rings’.  He encounters trials and tribulations along the way, meets his nemesis, succumbs briefly to despair and then adjusting to reality, continues his life’s work.  Like all good love stories, everything ends happily.

A coach or trainer could use this video to explain the meaning of

  • validation
  • emotional contagion
  • hero’s journey.

It is a pleasant 16.5 minutes on a grey Sunday morning in the northern hemisphere.

Look out for the network effect

The reason I am flagging the video, though, is that it demonstrates the network effect of  happiness.   Fowler & Cristakis’ article in the BMJ on happiness and networks exploded into the blogosphere during the last fortnight.  Everyone in the personal development space, from Harvard down to myself reported this article in one way or another.  Its press coverage alone would make an amazing student research project.  I’ll let Zemanta recommend some of the articles for you to read.

Most reports took a slightly simplistic view of  ‘smile and the world will smile with you’.  Network effects are hard for us to understand.  Hidden in the story is an example of the network.   Someone began to smile when the network smiled.  I won’t say more, but look out for it!

As we reach the end of the video, it is easy to miss the import of the network effect, or to treat it as a just crutch to help the story along.  In a typical narrative, we focus on the hero, the hero’s actions and in shallow stories, on the hero’s rewards.  In deeper stories, we will look at the interaction of the hero’s character and circumstances.  How did he bring circumstances about?  How did he choose to react?  How did he change as a result?


I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.  After you’ve watched the video, maybe you can ask yourself whether the network effects matter and whether it matters whether we can explain it well to our clients?

I’d love to collaborate on developing a set of narratives and stories that help clients understand how this works and how they can use it to understand their work.

Please do drop me a comment if you would like to collaborate.

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