Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Participation is the new default

A short while ago I wrote about the 90:9:1 rule - how I felt this was less a rule about human behaviour and more one about opportunity.

The story of the Internet has been one of lowering the transaction cost of forming groups. The lower the cost the lower the motivation required so to do = the greater the opportunity for all parties to engage.

We have the best set of tools in history to connect people (and if you think our current set are cool, wait until we truly get out of the silos). And the impact of their arrival has been to reduce our reliance on organisation from the centre - for our entertainment and our news etc (from Facebook to YouTube, IM to SMS).

When given the opportunity to connect, we take it. Whether it's to move into cities to be together - or to never be out of sight of our mobile phones - such is our reliance on the connection they offer.

The internet and our ever-growing collection of digital toys have given us a new order of magnitude of self-organising behaviour, not a new behaviour.

The 1:9:90 rule suggests it is normal for people not to participate (90% being lurkers).

500m people on Facebook suggests otherwise. Each of them has had to, as a minimum price for admission, contribute their own profile. This is the age of the total community - one in which to take part you have to create part.

And through this we are reminded that as in the real world, so in the digital.
We have an innate ability to identify and punish freeloaders and all-for-themselves bores. The more we and others can express our humanity online the more we will apply those innate abilities. Brands and orgs attempting to join in will have to put down their shields and meet us as equals; face to face and in the flesh of genuine human interaction.

The cost is low, the barriers increasingly surmounted and surmountable. Does anyone still believe only 1% of us is motivated (as the 1:9:90 rule would have it)?

So let's build our new institutions, our updated organisations, with the expectation of 99% participation.
If our governments, schools, businesses etc were designed from the off with that expectation I suspect they'd look somewhat different.

Participation was the old default. And now it's back.
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1 comment:

  1. Great post thanks for writing it! I do think the rule still applies but the underpinning assumption that 90% who don't actively contribute are free loaders is flawed. The way I see it (and wrote about it in my book leadershift) the difference between the 1% and the 90% is the difference between being committed and involved. Both categories are engaged but have different roles to play for the community to flourish. I agree that when things go wrong is when simple rules of thumb become lazy shortcuts to strategic choices rather than starting points to rich understanding. Thanks again for getting my brain in gear this morning.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?