How things spread (3) puppetmasters all

Posted by on May 6, 2008 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

From_above pic c/o puppetsinmelbourne

Just a thought:

Most folk I’ve worked with are happy to go looking for the new and the emergent and possibly significant from the young and the unspeakably leading edge before it becomes big and popular and yet the same grateful professionals seem to believe that behaviours they see in the mass of the population (in the mainstream, if you like) can only arise arises from what they (marketers, politicians, managers) have done.

We, up here in the Big Chairs, like to think that it’s what we do to the little people out there that makes the difference, that without us nothing much will happen.

Like we’re actually puppetmasters, pulling the strings.

Just like the popular (and not so popular) press fears.

Oh, if only…

Truth is, most things spread without us and the best that most managers, marketers and politicians can do is work with the underlying dynamics. Understanding and describing these is the real challenge now for folk doing strategy of all sorts – assuming the world works without us and the best we can do is work with
the ordinary folk out there who shape it together.

Of course, the mistake they/we make is claiming responsibility for the good stuff; seems fair that we take the rap for things that are bugger all to do with us, I guess…I suspect this might turn out to be a large part of the Gordon problem.


  1. David Brain
    May 6, 2008

    So on the Gordon thing and on elections and politics generally; what do you think of the role of opinion polls in elections. Do they not drive the herd as much as measure the herd? Are they directive as well as predictive?

  2. david cushman
    May 6, 2008

    Hi Mark, been waiting for this! Puppetmasters can’t know how to move us when we don’t know how we move ourselves, I guess?
    Re our twittering re recogs – will try to nail that down in next few days!

  3. Mark Earls
    May 6, 2008

    Hi David-bloke-types!
    First, to you question, David B: yep, opinion polls are more likely to provide a means to shape the herd’s behaviour and opinions (which is why a number of countries ban their publication during elections) than merely provide a precise measure of the outcome (we’re very bad witnesses to our own lives…).
    If you want predictive try the Iowa Electronic (and other “Decision”) Markets…beat the best polls again and again and again, most precisely. have some good apps of this to marketing decision making.
    And Dave C, I think I’d make your point another way. The notion that we have strings that can exert a direct influence on individual’s behaviour is so much b*******: of course, it’d be nice if it were true but it isn’t and can’t be if most of the factors influencing mass behaviour are endogenous (arising from the system itself) rather than exogenous (from outside the system).
    God, I’m sounding like wee Gordie or Ed Balls on a bad day. Off to lie down now
    Thanks both
    And to you

  4. Na
    May 10, 2008

    Thanks for posting my teddy bear marionette – I’m glad the design is interesting enough for it to catch the eyes and be used elsewhere!