The Key to Changing the World

984405951_34580c3cb9Last time we took at look at why ideas spread based on a recent article in The New Yorker. But that was just one great point of the story. The other point that Dr. Gawande made was based on the issues that his team tackled in India to spread best-practices through the BetterBirth Project. More specifically, to teach nurses simple, proper techniques that would greatly improve infant mortality rates in India.

In short, the key factor in this massive undertaking, effecting hundreds of thousands of births each year, is not technology or apps or 4-color pamphlets or even incentives. No my friends, the key factor for success is human contact. It is going from hospital-to-hospital, nurse-to-nurse and building relationships face-to-face. This is the only way the BetterBirth teams can listen to the staff, show them what needs to be done – and most importantly, gain their trust.

Some nuggets from the article:

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.

But technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

We live in a world where we want the fastest, easiest solution and we want it now. On the one hand, we want to “engage” our customers so they will buy our stuff. And on the other hand, we really don’t want to engage them because we know there’s a lot of messiness there with emotional baggage and experiences and expectations and unpredictable personalities and (gasp) feelings.

You know what? It is messy. It can be difficult. And while technology can help spread the word, that’s all it is without people – words. We all know what speaks louder, and while we’re embracing the latest and greatest marketing tools, let us never forget that they’ll only be effective when paired with that ingredient that has never failed: the human element.


  • August 28, 2013


    […] by @SpikeJones a Group Director at strategic communications firm WCG out of Austin, Texas where he recently posted about how any great change requires human contact.  From his […]

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