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It’s just simply impossible to go business as usual after the Manchester events. Yet, the best thing we could do after the shock, the sympathy and the anger (no particular order) is to make the best of our work, our lives, our sense of duty.

It is perhaps unfair that we are surrounded by horrors across the world but only react with deep emotions to those close to home. Yet it is inevitable as humans, and no necessarily a sign of moral failure.

I feel slightly embarrassed to look at the events and the behavioural fabric underneath through my professional glasses. It feels as if I should leave those glasses at the door. But, I wear those glasses all the time. What can I do?

My professional life is largely focused on helping organizations, public and private, to create large scale behavioural and cultural change, to organize internal social movements that bank on the combined power of non negotiable behaviours, peer to peer influence (the power of social imitation I describe in Homo Imitans), the informal day to day interactions, storytelling and backstage leadership. Those are the ingredients of the Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform.

With those glasses, I can tell you that that, addressing the mega problem in front,  I would put my money on number two in that list: peer to peer. I’ll explain.

In fact, my ridiculous oversimplification of options looks like this:

  • You can fight the command and control centre of the so called Caliphate. (Being born in Spain where we had 800 years of our history under Caliphs of some sort, I can tell you that most of them would be horrified of what is happening today under that name). Here is where all the political, economic and military interventions reside. Certainly I look at them as an anxious observer with zero expertise.
  • You could fight the ideology. Ideologies are epidemics of ideas. You don’t fight a bad idea/behavioural epidemic from within. You need a counter epidemic that takes over. It needs to be orchestrated. I look at this with more expertise. Until we see this as an infection model, not a rational discussion or an argument-counterargument issue, we will never win. ‘Defending our values’ is creating an epidemic of them. Incidentally, if you give me 100 units of energy to spend between ‘understanding the causes’ and ‘creating a counter epidemic of the opposite’, unapologetic, I would  give 1 unit to the ‘understanding’ and 9  to the orchestration of the counter epidemic.
  • You can fight the network at its granular roots. This is where specific, concrete behaviours are cooked, copied, imitated and reinforced. It’s not as glamorous and headline grabbing as sending the troops or cyberattacking the system but it is incredibly effective. It banks on the universal power of peer to peer influence, proven again and again as the engine behind the shaping of cultures, the creation of fashions or the crafting of revolutions. The greatest source of influence is the tribe. The horizontal, ‘people-like-me’, patient to patient, consumer to consumer, ex-gang member to gang member, ex-dysfunctional family to dysfunctional family, ‘youth to youth, granny to granny’ (I use this expression in Homo Imitans). Politicians, imams, priests, rabbis, social workers, police officers, elders and wise men (‘not people like me’ the terrorists say) jumping in to help, can’t even start to compete with the power of ‘tribal members’ (‘people like me’) which, in the case of terrorists, means ex-terrorists and/or people of the same age, religion and culture with alternative views. And guts. I can’t expand on the how in this space but this is the goal. It is peer to peer or it isn’t. We need battalions of those same age-religion-culture that can interact and confront.

I know there are about another hundred things you can do but I would put my money and energy on this one.

I can’t help feeling guilty of enormous oversimplification for such complex system, a true wicked problem of our lives. My intention is to draw attention to a point in the complex web of interconnected hubs in the network of this epidemic where there is a lot that can be done locally. Now. Orchestrated like a good social movement, propwrly organized.  (PS: not the same as Protest Groups)

Streets of Manchester 1, UN Security Council  nil. There is where it can be cooked. Peer pressure at a massive scale. No apologies.

PS. Here some previous Daily Thoughts on these principles:

A behavioural epidemic can’t be fought from within. It needs a behavioural counter-epidemic to take over

Don’t fight an epidemic of bad things. Create a counter-epidemic of good ones.

Counter-fundamentalism secret weapon is yet to be deployed fully. Homo Sapiens drops bombs. Homo Imitans changes minds.

PS2. Just checked that the web domain is available for 9.95 US dollars

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