On the Eleventh Day

Posted by on Jan 3, 2008 in Uncategorized | No Comments


this arrived on my doorstep.

Not something for most of us, I guess – except the German speakers (and there’s quite a few of those) and the HERD completists…because hidden in the latter half of this hefty tome is a revised version of my original 2003 MRS paper on the HERD.

It stopped me in my tracks – well, I think the home-office shredder was getting a little overheated.

And it made me reflect:

1. how much has changed since I first articulated the HERD point of view, however tentatively. Not least the rise of Word of Mouth and Social Media as twin marketing obsessions and the widespread acceptance (so it’s not just me anymore and every agency in town has a HERD chart in their creds, if Richard is to be believed)

2. how strange it must have seemed to readers at the time and why the paper now seems to take forever to spell out what changes (I remember struggling to write something that would really take the skeptic with me)

3. how unremarkable it now reads to me (and I suspect to those of you who read this blog) and how much further I would now go (e.g. in challenging the network-theory applications with all those ueber-influencer targets/nodes or evolving the Social Object idea, dissing the audience or advocating Enthusiasm Marketing)

4. how central this idea has become to me, almost a purpose-idea (as I first proposed here and Hugh rather more memorably re-articulated here): how much more than just a point-of-view. And how difficult it is to unsee it: how strange non-HERDY’s perspective seems, like a pair of specs with the wrong (and v strong) prescription in them, how easy it is to talk at cross purposes and also how strange it must be to be an agnostic….to not have a view

5. How little we can tell our own futures, however much effort we put in to shaping them. It can feel good to reflect back on what has happened in the past but it can be dangerous as well: not only does the sense-making urge slip silently past the guard of my your conscious mind (and soon you’re making causal connections when there are none) but how easy it is to slip into cognitive biases, like the framing biases even the smartest investor gets suckered by when they start to imagine a 52week or 5 year high is a natural level of equilibrium to which a stock MUST return (Jon Allen Paulos, one of the USA’s finest mathematicians) learned this to his cost as he explains here . Go here for more wonderful examples of ways cognitive biases can trip us up.

It’s all too natural (and let’s be honest, the outcome of significant peer-to-peer influence) for each of us to use this time of year as a chance to reflect on what’s gone before and to reset our personal courses for the year ahead. But remember how difficult it is to really work out what happened.

And be gentle with yourself: nobody (apart from you) is awarding points…