When Does Something Become Contagious? – (With some encouraging news about our First Friday Book Synopsis)


ContagiousBut while it’s easy to find examples of social contagion, it’s much harder to actually get something to catch on.


Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On
read my blog post: Here are my Five Takeaways from Jonah Berger’s Contagious (& his 6 STEPPS) – You Want your Endeavor to Become Contagious, Right?

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What will catch on next? If only we could figure that out.

I remember my first experience with something that caught on very quickly. I was in junior high school. The local 7-Eleven had a new offering called an Icee. (Only later did they re-name it to Slurpee). No one had ever had, or even seen, an Icee before. In the proverbial blink of an eye, every kid wanted to be seen drinking an Icee. It was… contagious. (And, it was really good!).

But, becoming contagious is tough, and staying the “must have/must experience” thing of the moment is so very difficult. (I haven’t had an Icee/Slurpee in years). Just think of yesterday’s dominance of Yahoo, and consider their current travails.

And, think of all the apps that didn’t catch on, and the ones that did (Instagram; Snapchat…). If only we could predict…

So, with those introductory thoughts, I have an observation (some news) that I’m pretty excited about. Our First Friday Book Synopsis, now nearly completing its 18th year, is having a moment. We’re growing, and not just a little. Seemingly, in just a few short months, our attendance has increased dramatically. Tomorrow’s session may hit over 100, and just a few short months ago, most of our sessions were in the 55-60 range.

What is going on? I don’t know — but here are some possibilities:

#1 – Through our “connectors,” some new folks are discovering what we do.  

Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, described Connectors as people with a special gift for bringing the world together. We’ve always relied on such people to spread the word. That’s the way it is with any endeavor. We’ve had some long-time connectors who have invited people to our event. (I could name quite a few).

And, among our connectors are some groups within companies. For example, Virginia Cook and Sheila Rice of Virginia Cook Realtors frequently reserve a table for their team. (Their team will be there tomorrow).

But recently, some “new-to-us” connectors have joined the effort. Two especially come to mind: one, a fellow baby boomer who encourages a whole bunch of folks at the monthly gatherings he leads to check out our event also. The other, a young woman, who is inviting her follow young professionals to give us a try. We’ve even created a table sign for them – “The M Group.” (M for Millennials).

The point is simple: get someone — someone who is pretty well connected — to like what you do, who will encourage others to give it a try.

#2 – I think we’ve really been helped by some “old media” attention.

A few months ago, Cheryl Hall of the Dallas Morning News wrote a wonderful article about our event: Dallas consultants are ghost readers for the business set.

It helped that it was on the front page of the Dallas Morning News Business Section. And it really helped that it was Cheryl Hall who wrote the article. She is something of a business section legend, with great, earned credibility. There are folks who show up every month and say “I read the article by Cheryl Hall.”

Here’s a revelation: all of my tweets, blog posts, and Facebook mentions together don’t hold a candle to the reach of one Cheryl Hall article.

#3 – The content is always, and still, useful.

We have never wavered from our intent. Karl Krayer and I each read a current, useful business book for each month’s gathering. And we distill the lessons and takeaways into a few short minutes, captured in our oral presentations, and in our comprehensive handouts. In other words, there is something — something of value — to learn each month at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

(Over the years, I think we have gotten better at what we do. One would certainly hope so. But it is the wisdom and lessons from the books that we select that provide the real secret sauce for our gatherings).

Because, what I really care about is helping people learn what might be useful to their work-life, and the other aspects of their life. I think the First Friday Book Synopsis is a way to help make that happen.

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Would you like to reserve a table for your company, or group? Just send me an e-mail and let’s make it happen.

And, would you like to hear/read synopses we have presented in earlier months and years?  Check out our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

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