The power of small groups, loosely connected, with a common purpose to propel products.
I’ve been looking forward to this discussion with Greg Satell since hearing he was working on a new book, titled Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change. Greg is an innovation author we first met back in episode 126, when he shared predictable patterns in different types of innovation.
Now he is talking about how to create a movement around a product. A movement turns a valuable product into a super valuable sensation. Such products often appear to be overnight successes that come out of nowhere, but they are actually the result of the proper combination of actions that can lead to cascades (he’ll explain that) creating transformational change. There are many examples, but I remember when Toms Shoes became a big thing — it was like suddenly, everywhere you turned someone was talking about Toms Shoes.
Greg will tell us how that happens and what is needed to make it happen. That’s something Everyday Innovators should be aware of.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:49] What led you to write this book?
We always underestimate the transformation. We think that our job is done once we get a product into the market, but getting users to adopt is often the longest and most difficult part of the process. In 2004, I found myself running a news organization in Kyiv, Ukraine, during the Orange Revolution. Thousands of people would stop and do the same thing in unison; everything went viral all the time. I thought that it would be great for customers and employees to do that. I learned that successful transformations all ended up with the same set of principles that allowed them to drive change, and that became Cascades. The value of the product for the consumer comes from using the product for their own purposes, which might be different from your reasons for creating that product.
[9:33] Can you explain what you mean when you say transformational change is built on small groups that interact with each other in a loosely connected manner with a united purpose?
When you say “cascade,” everyone knows what you mean because it’s a colloquial term. But it’s also a technical term driven by small groups loosely connected. The most vivid example in the real world is Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, which has more than 20,o00 people attend services. What makes it work is networks of small prayer groups that meet throughout the week and create strong bonds that drive the passion. We all belong to a lot of groups at work and in other parts of our lives. Information spreads through these small groups as people share among people in their networks. Leadership comes in to unite those groups around a sense of shared purpose and inspire and empower their members. Social movements often fail because they don’t have a strong leader giving direction and implementing values.
[18:52] Where do influencers fit into this picture?
The influencer concept has a lot of resonance because it seems right, but research shows that long chains of influence are much more effective than a few concentrated people. The chain stops unless the influencer’s followers keep it going. People often confuse celebrity with influencer, when in reality they are very different things. When you feel like you have to convince people, you’ve picked the wrong product.
[22:56] How do these concepts apply to creating new products?
When you are trying to create something new or innovative, you want to find a “hair on fire” use case. This is someone who has a problem that needs to be solved so badly that they’re willing to work with the little glitches along the way. Before you create a market, you need to have a customer. You can’t expect commitment up front; participation must come first.
- The book, Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change
- Digital Tonto, Greg’s website
- Greg’s speaking website
“Innovation is not about ideas, it is about problems.” -Greg Satell
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.