The Tipping Point of Change: Why knowing your team’s strengths can make transition that much easier

Getting change to catch on and take off in a company can be extremely challenging. After rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s book- The Tipping Point – I realise how many of the principles mentioned apply to organisational change.

 

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

 

What I would like to highlight is “The Law of the Few” or as Gladwell explains it “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”.

 

By using the “80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants”, he theorised that there are three types of people that can cause the change to tip in your organisation. These people are Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen, each one with their unique skill set are critical to making a change stick.

 

Now, in order to let me simplify this complex idea for those of you that have not yet read this amazing book I must first explain what it means to be a maven, connector or salesman.

 

Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information”. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.

 

According to Gladwell, Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. As Gladwell states: “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”. Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.

 

A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles.

 

Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.

 

You’re all probably asking yourselves about how this connects to organisational change? Well let me explain: The way I see it, change is no different to any other trend.

 

However, instead of trying to spread the trend far and wide, you are trying to spread it amongst a team. By utilizing the salesmen, mavens and connectors in your team, each to their own individual strengths, you can make the change stick in a way that you never imagined.

 

The first step is knowing your team and understanding their natural strengths and weaknesses. Through this you can then use their natural gifts to your advantage.

 

Now, the mavens, connectors and salesmen as described by Gladwell are very defined ideas. Usually, most people will be a mixture of two or even three of these traits. The mavens are the naturally inquisitive type. When a change is being made, be sure not to keep details from them.

 

Having them filled in will pay off when they start explaining the nuances of the change to the others.

 

The salesmen are the team members who will be convincing the rest of the team. The trouble is, if they are against the change then it will be an uphill battle from the outset. These are the people that you need to get onboard first. The rest will usually follow these natural leaders.

 

The connectors are the gel that holds your team together. Usually there will be one or two people that are on great terms with everyone. Well, it may even be you.

 

They may not be the most knowledgeable or the best leaders, however these people generally have the best sense of the mood in the team and of any underlying difficulties that may be occurring. Listen to them. Their insight will be valuable!

 

If you have any trouble identifying the salesmen, connectors and mavens in your team you can always check this link out which may give you a pretty good indication!

 

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
Christopher Smith on sabtwitterChristopher Smith on sablinkedinChristopher Smith on sabgoogleChristopher Smith on sabfacebook