A look at innovation in creativity, media and communications.

Tornadoes, Constellations and Word-of-Mouth

Essentially, I see the 5,000 year old phenomenon of people looking at the stars for information about what to do with their lives – when to plant crops, which direction to steer their ships, when to pick up camp and move to a new location – as analogous to the modern day phenomenon of infographics, which also distill large amounts of information into easy-to-grasp graphical arrangements telling people what to do with their lives – from what to think about political rhetoric, to when to post content on Facebook, and so on.

Coincidentally, I was listening to the Astronomy Cast podcast today and heard a fascinating explanation of why weather exists – apparently all weather of any kind, on any planet across the universe, is a function of temperature differences. When you have one system that’s hotter than another, the two systems fight it out to attain equilibrium. Temperature differences are the reason we have clouds, jetstreams and tornadoes, so I found out today.

In my mind, I was picturing these two temperature systems as similar to a couple different social and economic paradigms in human behavior. Supply and demand of information, and then differences of opinion. To put it simply, let’s say demand for information is a hot system, and supply for information is a cold system. Then let’s say “loving” something is a hot system, and “hating” something is a cold system.

The idea in question
– let’s say it’s a new idea that people are curious about, like the discovery of a 13th Zodiac symbol – is the tornado.

When astrologists came out with the new and provocative idea ofOphiuchus” – the 13th symbol that shook up all of our signs (I’m a Sagittarius, and was knocked out of orbit when the headlines told me that was no longer the case). There was a huge demand for that information, and subsequently everyone from bloggers, the media, scientific journals, video producers, and new moms on Facebook rushed in to fill the supply gap for information about this idea. On top of that, people had strongly differing opinions about this new idea – whether it mattered, whether it was fair to force that change on people, essentially they could love it or hate it.

For a few weeks, these contrasting systems created a natural word-of-mouth phenomenon, making it virtually impossible to not hear about the 13th Zodiac symbol. Over time, once the demand for the information and the supply of the information leveled out, and the magnitude of all the opinions in either direction – love or hate, agree or disagree – approached neutral, the word-of-mouth tornado fizzled out to nothing, letting us move on to whatever next big weather system would stir things up on Facebook.

Think about this analogy the next time you’re looking to create word-of-mouth around something you’re working on. Can you look at what’s happening naturally in the world as a pairing of information supply-demand or love it-hate it systems? If so, that’s an opportunity for you to jump in, add your voice and maybe gain some word-of-mouth along the way.

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