The best way to help dysfunctional families to get out of their habits and become functional is not an army of social workers but a small platoon of ex-dysfunctional families that can be engaged and asked for help in an orchestrated manner.
The best way to stop the shootings in the streets between gangs is not an increase in the number of police officers or periodical street demonstrations with ‘Stop violence’ placards held by local politicians and priests, but a small number of ex-gang members who can interact directly with the gangs.
The best way to create cultural change in the organization is not to cascade down messages from the hierarchy but to activate a relatively small number of highly connected people who can be engaged and asked for help and who will work on a peer-to-peer basis.
The best way to counter fundamentalism in communities is not by landing the imams and community leaders talking to young people at risk, but to engage young ex-fundamentalist, young ex-jihad people and people of similar age and social status.
These diverse four scenarios have in common that peer-to-peer influence has a much greater chance to change things than hierarchical influence. The peer-to-peer influence of ‘people like me’ always wins the game. Grassroots always wins the game ( and the roots in the grass hardly contain social workers, politicians, CEOs and imams; these are not ‘people-like-me’). In the company, data such as the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that. In the streets movements such as ‘Cure Violence’ shows that. In organizational change, our Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform shows that.
In the magnetic effect of ISIS to attract young people to join, there is plenty of data to show that those who join were more influenced by ‘people like them’ (friends, people who have joined, who are already ‘there’, digital connections, friends in touch,) than by the local religious leader preaching the merits of a holy war and the bonus of a paradise.
Human influence is transversal, horizontal, tribal, anti-hierarchical (although apparent hierarchical influence fools people), at ‘people-like-me’ and ‘one-of-us’ level. It works in consumer behaviour, change management, religious proselytism and social movements. It creates new business models (Peer Inc), new movements and new mobilizations. Good or bad. The peer-to-peer universals are amoral. It’s Homo Imitans over Homo Sapiens, as I have described in my book.
In 2015 we can’t ignore these principles anymore. The epidemic of home grown irrational and emotional fundamentalism will be won by a counter epidemic of solidarity, lead by same-age, some-social, same-same people, ex-jihad, ex-fundamentalist, ex-being-there-done-that, and guess what, it’s crazy, man.
The role of politicians, religious leaders, community leaders and community organisers is to find these highly connected ‘people-like-them’ and support them 24/7 (backstage leadership). The battle for ideas will be won at peer-to-peer level. Other battles may need other ways. We don’t need drones in the streets of France, or the streets of the UK. Out of war zone counter-terrorism is the engineering of a counter-epidemic of thought, emotions and actions.
Crafting counter-epidemics is the key social competence of the century. Homo Imitans is having a laugh at the expenses of Homo Sapiens. Let’s laugh together.
Homo Sapiens drops bombs. Homo Imitans changes minds.