Monday, August 21, 2006

The Tipping Point: Stickiness

Besides connectors, mavens and salesmen, the next factor to creating a social epidemic is the environment.

An epidemic must be sticky, it's no use infecting others unless they are can carry the virus for a long enough time to incubate.

The idea of Sesame Street and Blues Clues is to make education a social epidemic.

Sesame Street was not an immediate hit. In fact, it was because of psychological testing to see whether kids were distracted or not during certain segments that they learnt to decide which to scrap, which to rework or to edit. The Sesame Street producers had eye movement cameras and observers meticulously watching the behaviour of their target children and seeing what worked and what didn't. This led to the decision to incorporate puppets with live actors, that went against the advice of "experts" that warned against mixing fantasy and reality.

In his example of Blues Clues, which is considered a bigger success than Sesame Street, the keys were talking in terms of how pre-schoolers think (story-telling format) and getting them involved in learning, like asking them to repeat the host's gestures (the principle of involvement) and repeating the same show every day for 5 days (the principle of repetition). Another key to Blues Clues is progressive difficulty. Easier first, and then the difficulty increases as the show progresses.

It may be a simple thing to reorder the clues given so that the show has suspense but it has a dramatic impact.

The lesson is that simple things like structure and format of a show can go a long way in causing something to be sticky.

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