Fascinating insight into human behavior

Yes, I am reading again … well, actually listening to books on tape through Audible .  I love listening while I am in the studio working or while riding the bus into work. Audible lets me read while accomplishing other things. It feeds my fundamental belief that “Readers are leaders”, and “in order to grow I have to keep learning.”   Being a visual learner with heavy auditory learning tendencies, listening to a book helps me improve my knowledge while enjoying the creative process.  I may be odd, but wow, love those nuggets that come only through spending time reading.


So I have leaped into a book titled “Contagious – why things catch on” not realizing how practical and measurable the information would be.  The book is written to summarize a wildly popular class taught by Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of business (University of Pennsylvania) and it is surprising me a bit more than I had anticipated.

Thoughts like cultural capital, social influence, online search visibility and cultural observation are now something I am thinking about.  What do we talk about, notice, tell others about and why.  I have to be clear in stating that my passion for finding patterns in life is hardwired into my soul…. and I want to observe and understand the world in order to understand how to function.  So much of our lives hold rules – not written down, that are observable patterns of living, and ways of responding that are hard-coded into our culture, and our souls.  So this book sounded like it might answer some of my questions and feed my passion.   I am only up to chapter 5 and I have to say i am slowing down, rereading to soak it in.  Much of what he has written is clearly on the mark, and quantifiable.  And his examples are real and practical.

Let me back up and say this-  Recently we were told by an art show organizer that a number of other art vendors expressed jealousy and a bit of frustration that our tent was getting a steady number of visitors and this was apparently not the case of their tent, and in their observable moments the perception that we were significantly more profitable than them.  They did not like that pattern, and they therefore did not like that we were there.  I see is a pattern in what was said, but what is the underlying unspoken social rule… or is there a predictable social reason for it?    It is probably never a good thing to begin reading a book looking for answers like this….but…..

Somewhere in chapter 4 the author, Jonah Berger, explains a concept of social proof.  He relayed an example that clarified the concept for me.  It was an AH HAH moment, so much so that i had to call Steve and share. (I was listening on my bus ride into work when this came.)  The story was of a restaurant in New York City known as Halal Chicken, a wildly popular food cart ranked in the top 20 food carts in the city.  Long lines of patrons waiting for their food seems to be proof of their success.  The same owners operate an almost identical, same food cart across the street called Halal Guys, but it is not getting much attention, and seldom are people visiting that cart.  He indicates it is the unspoken “social proof” concept that we will go where there is a line, thinking the line validates the quality of the food.

I think our jealous fellow festival vendors were looking at our big crowds as “social proof” that our products were popular, good and desired.  Clearly they passed the jury process to be there, and their products were likewise worthy and good.  But there was another factor!  Ah, they have no clue apparently that we have been building relationships with that community for nearly 20 years.  Once Steve worked in that neighborhood, and so many of his old coworkers love our stuff and come to buy their soap because they like it, and as a way of saying they stand by us in our business endeavor.  And the same is true for many of the neighborhood people.  They are our friends, we have developed a solid relationship, and invested in their lives.  Social proof (lots of people buying our things in our tent) answers one portion of their observations, but networking and relationship building is clearly another aspect they don’t think about.

When we listened to the art show organizer’s words we were  honestly stunned. It seemed a bit unfair for someone to have these perceptions.  They don’t know us, we both thought.  We were stunned because one of our core principles of doing business is to help others.  We firmly believe that to help someone else succeed will help us also.  It’s that “the high tide floats all boats” concept and our desire is to share what we have learned to help others find that next step down the path.  We remember the advice and influence others have shared with us… some significant things we never thought of, or which influenced us in new directions that have been good for both of us and for our business.

flywheelSo why do some people believe the idea of “if we build it they will come” when the approach an art show or business?  Our experience is that it takes time, connection with people, and lots of hard work.  We subscribe to the idea of the “fly wheel” – it does not move unless you put your hard effort into initally getting the fly wheel moving… and it takes maintenance to keep it moving.  Like all things, when you do nothing to move it or maintain it, you get no results.  So if you build it they will not necessarily come.

And why do some people make such unsophisticated comments to art show organizers.  That i cannot control, so honestly i will lay those thoughts down, and offer only this thought to anyone reading my blog.

“Life, and business are never sure, or guaranteed.  But life and business require of us an effort, finding passion, connection to others, and motivation to dig deep.  Do your part, help others with doing theirs, and when you know you have given your best effort you have to just trust that was good enough.  And finally two things are core to our philosophy of business: 1. tell your story – how you got there, who, what, when and where, but answer the why.  and 2.  as you develop your network of customers know that they are first buying you before they are buying your products.”

I am sure there will be more posts on thoughts raised in this book.  But i had to just get this one out.  If you are one of those vendors (mind you, we don’t know who spoke to the art organizer) we want to encourage you to chat with us, develop a friendship, and lets together see how we can encourage your heart and your business.