I have recently directed my attention to the subtle ways in which we are influenced and influence others. In my role as a radio talk show host, writer, mentor, coach and teacher I have watched with amusement how new ideas take hold in groups and soon become dogma.
The American advertising executive Donny Deutsch has discussed how ideas spread through a culture as a type of pyramid. He speaks of these pyramids in relation to the marketing of products and services but I believe that what he describes addresses cultural viruses as well.
At the top of the pyramid is a group that Deutsch calls the “Creators”. These are individuals who though not highly social seem to create trends without any obvious purpose or motivation. When viewed closer we may see that their actions are driven by aesthetics or an attraction to a particular pattern that may not be obvious to the rest of us. These creators may be consciously influencing culture, simply responding to personal interest or even instinct, or acting on a momentary whim. It doesn’t really matter. In the end they are influencers and what they say or do influences others.
These types of creator/influencers may include powerful politicians, those who are famous for being famous, individuals of great physical beauty, or those with charisma, great intellect or highly effective communication skills, or deep spiritual wisdom.
On the next level of this influence hierarchy are very small social circles of what Deutsch calls “Disciples”. Like the creators these individuals are neither very social, and are usually concerned with sound, sight or kinesthestic aesthetics and patterns. Like the Creators the Disciples can recognize these aesthetic patterns in a way that others cannot. However the Disciples are seldom creators, they are copiers and what they copy is what the creators create.
On the next level are what Deutsch calls “Believers.” These individuals seldom have any personal contact with the creator and may not even recognize the subtleties of aesthetics and patterns in a way that the creator and disciples can. What Believers can offer that Creators and Disciples seldom can is sociability. These “initiated” individuals can take the aesthetic choices of the Creators and Disciples and spread them virally through social networks and into the larger culture.
The rest, what Deutsch calls the “Masses”, simply by the need to feel part of a community make contact with what has been created fourth hand and make it part of their ordinary reality. They in turn influence others who are unaware of how they have been influenced. The masses simply jump on the bandwagon.
When Deutsch had anthropologists interview Creators and those who might be classified as Disciples, they found that many of these individuals with a limited desire for social interaction had no siblings so there is clearly a pattern here though there is no definitive meaning that can be applied to it.
I will be discussing this concept this Sunday 1-4 PM at “Make Choices, Not Excuses”, a seminar I teach the last Sunday of each month in Stamford NY.
I hope you can make it. Please read on
This inquiry of course cannot be considered scientific and yet Deutsch asks the question “Was it the solitary nature of their childhoods, the necessity of playing by themselves that allowed the Creators and Disciples to uniquely collect and appreciate unusual ideas?” Is it possible that Creators as well as Disciples have no internal need to spread ideas and are satisfied to appreciate and apply them in isolation? Is it the Believers, who have some limited contact with Disciples and are able to observe them from a distance, that create influence, and help the Creators and Disciple to spread these social and aesthetic “Patterns” through the masses?
I do not like to label people or place them in “boxes” and yet Deutsch’s ideas on how ideas take form and spread among us is certainly fascinating.
Who are you? Creator, Disciple, Believer or simply part of the communal mind?
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Here is a musical comment on what we have discussed here: