Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tipping the jury in your favor

Ever wonder what makes one idea become the next big thing while another just dies on the vine?

Ever wonder why Hush Puppies made a comeback? Or why the crime rate in New York City plummetted? Or why the rates of venereal disease in Baltimore increased?

Malcolm Gladwell did and he wrote a book exploring the how's and why's behind the idea that makes it. In The Tipping Point, Mr. Gladwell points to three phenomena and their role in determining the next social epidemic to come down the pike. Those three phenomena are the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context.

Gladwell's Law of the Few looks at the role of connectors, mavens and salesmen in creating social epidemics. We all know people who seem to know everybody else. My grandmother's late companion was like that - it seemed that he knew everyone. Gladwell labels folks like that connectors. These connectors are important in the spread of a social epidemic precisely because they have so many connections across race, religion, ethnicity, income and political ideology.

Mavens have fewer connections but they have knowledge. What to know the best car on the market? How about the best hi-def television? Or even the best place to buy gas? Mavens know the answers and they are very influential among their circle of friends.

The mavens and connectors interact with salesmen who bring the ideas or knowledge to a wider array of people and the seeds are sown for the epidemic to go viral.

Now these messengers matter, but there must be a message to send and that is what stickiness is all about. Is the message memorable? Does the message make you want to know more? The stickier the message, the more the recipients want it. And the more the recipients want the message, the easier it is to "infect" the next group.

The final factor is the context of the message. Your message may be sticky and you may have an army of messengers, but if the initial conditions of your delivery aren't right, then the social epidemic can be avoided. Gladwell points out that when analyzing a situation we often fall victim to the fundamental attribution error which is a fancy way of saying we tend to analyze the actors' fundamental character traits and ignore the environment.

According to Gladwell, when these three phenomena all come together an idea can "tip" and become the next social epidemic - whether we're talking about the comeback of Hush Puppies, the popularity of Blue's Clues or why Paul Revere's ride was so successful.

Understanding these three laws is vital when preparing a case for trial. First, is your message sufficiently sticky? Can you sell your theme to the panel and will they want to "buy" it?

Don't forget the context of your message. What was happening at the time of the event? What role, if any, did your client play in what happened? What is the public's mindset regarding that particular crime?

Finally, who are the mavens on the panel? Who will the other panelists look to for guidance? Who are the salesmen? Which panelists can take your theme and run with it?

The Tipping Point looks at those critical factors that make one idea take off while another idea falls by the wayside. Use the same analysis to "tip" that jury in your favor.

No comments: