I was one of the audience at a night at the RSA hosted by Mark Earls last week. It was about 'cultural evolution', and it was one of the few talks I've been to that actually created a dust storm between these ears of mine (Obliquity for example, was pretty uninspired). As usual, a couple of bits that I found interesting...
Professor Mike O'Brien:
- An awesome story about a Boston department store where people used to hide clothes in different departments in order to hold them till the price dropped. My only question is what were the sales assistants up to?
- O'Brien's talk was mainly about similarities between biological spread and cultural spread. He asked some interesting questions about how inventions (mutations in biology) become innovation, i.e. how they get picked up and spread. Something that marketers are mad interested in.
- Three ways of passing information: Vertically (parents to offspring, teachers to students, etc), horizontally (through friends), and obliquely.
- What is the bias on social transmission of information?
Dr. Alex Bentley:
- Alex Bentley plotted a chart (which I will draw and add at some point) which you could plot data against to help understand macro trends and their drivers. Interesting stuff.
- He underlined the point that we now live in an era when choices are increasingly equivalent, i.e. we make decisions less on the inherent quality/benefits, but because of social networks. For example it's easier to understand the benefits of biking vs. walking, but not necessarily between two styles of eyeglass.
- Remembering that social networks are dynamic not static. Also, a single persons sphere overlaps many different 'networks'.
Anyway, what the talks directed my brain to was actually articulated in the Q&A. Dr. Alex Bentley was all about looking at a population overview and trying to understand what makes trends spread through populations. And therefore how we can understand how to influence populations instead of individuals. It got me thinking about the creative brief and how it's often easier to bring it down to the individual level because it's something we can relate to. How do we re-train ourselves to understand the nuances of populations when thinking about individuals is our default setting?
Completely unrelated someone in the audience (a scientist I presume) made an analogy between physics and marketing. Bear with me. Back in the day they both subscribed to deterministic models (think Newton, Mad Men) and now are dealing with masses of uncertainty (quantum mechanics). I liked that. I might use it in a slide.