Unbroken: Paying it Forward

I vividly remember reading this post by Scott Johnson on Power Line in Nov. 2010 about Unbroken, Lauren Hillenbrand’s book on the life of Olympic athlete/WW II bombadier/shark fighter/Japanese POW camp survivor Louis Zamperini. As Johnson wrote:

Reading Janet Maslin’s review of the book last week, I felt bad not even to have heard of Zamperini previously. But, as Oney and Journal reviewer James Hornfischer point out, Hillenbrand hadn’t heard of him either before she undertook the research for Seabiscuit…Zamperini’s story should be common knowledge, especially while we can still express our gratitude to him for his sacrifice.

So I downloaded the Audible version so I could listen to Unbroken during an overnight flight to Sweden, on Nov. 30, 2010. As I started to mutter about my discomfort and inability to sleep on a cramped airplane, I was chastened as I listened to the narrator tell the story of Zamperini’s 47-day ordeal on a life raft floating in the Pacific and his two years of torment in the POW camp. I was astounded at his strength and resolve, and like Johnson I wondered how it was possible that I hadn’t heard of him. I also couldn’t believe his story hadn’t been made into a movie.

Finally, it has. Lisa and I went to the matinee today, and it was excellent. Director Angelina Jolie didn’t shrink from portraying the brutality Louis endured. It was a faithful representation of the book and his life. Here’s the trailer:

I highly recommend both the book (it’s in paperback now) and the movie. I’m grateful to have been introduced to Louis’ story, and glad to encourage you to get to know more about him, too.

Why Ice Buckets are Contagious

I’ve recently been listening to an audiobook by Jonah Berger called Contagious: Why Things Catch On. It’s based on Berger’s Ph.D. research into why some ideas or products get lots of word of mouth, while others don’t. It’s about a seven-hour audiobook that condenses his more academic work, and it’s good listening for workout time.

Berger describes six key principles that helps products or ideas go “viral.” Those six characteristics are:

  1. Social Currency – How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? Does it make people look smart? In the know? Kind, caring and empathetic? To get people talking, you need to craft messages that help people achieve these desired impressions. Make people feel like insiders. Use game mechanics to give people signs of status they can show to others.
  2. Triggers – “How do we remind people to talk about our products and ideas?” Triggers get people thinking about related things. “We need to design products and ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment, and and create new triggers by linking our products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.” This video saw traffic spikes on the same day every week. Care to guess which day?
  3. Emotion – “When we care, we share…. Rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings.” But not all emotions increase sharing; some actually decrease it. The most important emotion to support sharing? Awe. As we saw with Susan.
  4. Public – “Can people see when others are using our product or engaging in our desired behavior?…Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular.” If we can create “behavioral residue” that is left behind even after the product is used or the idea is discussed, we’re more likely to get traction. The distinctive white ear buds on Apple’s iPod, when all other mp3 players used black headphones, is an example of this residue.
  5. Practical Value – “How can we craft content that seems useful? People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas with save time, improve health or save money, they’ll spread the word.” But we need to find ways to make our product or initiative clearly stand out as a particularly good deal.
  6. Stories – “What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in?” Stories are vessels that carry ideas like Trojan horses. We need to make our idea an integral part of the story, so people can’t tell the story without sharing the idea.

Berger says this isn’t a recipe, in which all ingredients are needed, but rather more like a salad: the more of these elements are present, the more currency the idea will have.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge clearly meets the test of contagiousness. How does it embody these six principles?

It’s extraordinarily Public, with videos typically uploaded to YouTube or Facebook. It creates Social Currency, as many participants exercise and display their creativity in the videos. Others feel peer pressure, the negative side of social currency, to join once they have been challenged.

The practice of challenging three others at the end of each video, and typically tagging them on Facebook, is a use of Triggers. Especially when shared on Facebook, it elicits Emotion as people see their friends shriek upon being doused. It is perceived as having Practical Value in raising funds to fight a terrible disease, and has yielded 25 times the amount donated in the same period last year.

As I see it, probably the weakest element is Stories. Pouring icy water over one’s head does not have a logical relationship with ALS. This tactic could have been used in support of any charity; indeed, earlier this year a variation, the Polar Plunge, was being used to raise money for Special Olympics.

A few other factors have helped the ALS Ice Bucket phenomenon.

  1. There are no long Ice Bucket videos. Shorter videos tend to get more views, and most Ice Bucket videos take less than 30 seconds.
  2. Challenging three others means that the idea can propagate if one or two of them join the fun. The ubiquity of video cameras on smart phones removes a barrier that could break the chain.
  3. And while Polar Plunges with submersion in freezing water can be seriously dangerous, victorious football coaches (especially those winning in upsets) experience a version of the Ice Bucket event on a weekly basis. The discomfort is transitory.

Contagious is a good listen. Thinking about these principles, and how we have seen them applied in a recent health-related viral phenomenon, is a good way for those of us working in health care to better design the ideas we want to spread.

Book Review: LinkedIn Riches

About a month ago, John Nemo sent me a message in LinkedIn asking if I would like a review copy of his new book, Linkedin Riches: How I made $135,000 in just 90 Days using LinkedIn!

LinkedIn Book coverI was wary at first because of the subtitle, which made it sound like the get-rich-quick stuff of infomercials, but I overcame that initial reaction and requested a Kindle copy.

I’m glad I did. And I’m glad that somewhere through the process, John decided to take his own advice in the naming of his book. More on that in a bit.

Because of the patient-oriented nature of my day job, I have focused much more on general consumer platforms like Facebook instead of LinkedIn. Our Human Resources department has used LinkedIn successfully for recruiting. But since the audiences I have been pursuing are mostly patients and consumers, as opposed to “B2B” as they say in the biz, I have had a profile, but haven’t spent much time personally in LinkedIn. So it was good to get perspective from someone who has.

One of the main points John makes is that your LinkedIn profile should be client-facing and framed in terms of what you can do for clients. It’s not about you. And he also gives some concrete suggestions for how to implement this philosophy.

So here’s how I used his advice on my own LinkedIn profile.

Rewriting My Profile Headline:


Before Profile



LinkedIn After

Giving Descriptive Titles to Web Links in Contact Info

Edit Web Sites

Descriptive Contact LInks

Improving My Summary:


Summary before


Summary after

Those are three positive changes in my profile in just the first chapter. The combination of the client-facing mindset and some practical tips makes this a good resource.

Practicing What He Preaches

As his book is now published, it was good to see that John retitled it to follow his own client-facing advice. You will remember that the previous subtitle was all about him: “How I made $135,000 in Just 90 Days Using LinkedIn!”

While that might appeal to some, the new title is much more oriented toward benefits for the reader.

Linked In Riche$: How to Leverage the World’s Largest Professional Network to Enhance Your Brand, Generate Leads and Increase Revenue.

And if you’re looking for a quick read with some helpful tips on using LinkedIn, I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

Guest Lecturer: Seth Godin

Last week I shared a video from David Allen on Getting Things Done, or GTD.

Here’s some more Saturday viewing from another author who has taught me a lot: Seth Godin. He even has his own section among the SMUG-recommended textbooks. Seth is speaking to employees at Google, and for those who haven’t read his work, it’s a good introduction:

Check out Seth’s blog, too.

What motivates you?

I’ve recently been listening to a compelling audiobook about motivation, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which author Daniel Pink says is about “the mismatch between what science knows, and what business does.”

Pink calls for a “new operating system” for business that focuses not on the extrinsic “carrot and stick” incentives, but on factors that contribute to intrinsic motivation. Carrots and sticks, or “if/then” rewards, not only don’t work (in most circumstances): they’re usually harmful and counterproductive, particularly for non-routine work.

Pink says the three key elements of what he calls “Motivation 3.0” are:

  • Autonomy – giving employees control over their tasks, time, team and technique.
  • Mastery – Becoming better at something that matters. Carrots and sticks can produce compliance, but only engagement can produce mastery.
  • Purpose – “Humans by nature seek purpose, a cause greater and more enduring than themselves. But traditional businesses have long considered purpose ornamental: a perfectly nice accessory, so long as it didn’t get in the way of the important things.”

When I tweeted about reading this book, my friend Lucien Engelen (@Zorg20) tweeted back a link to a post he had done for the TEDxMaastricht blog that included a video of Dan Pink from the TED Global 2009 conference. I’ve embedded that video below, because it provides a good introduction to Pink’s ideas. I hope it gives you enough of a taste that you’ll get the book, either via audio (on Audible) or in printed form.

In a future post I will discuss how social media can help cultivate intrinsic motivation, or what Pink calls “Type I” behavior. Meanwhile, you can get his book on Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Update: Wow! Check out this video that was mentioned in the comments below. Fantastic summary/visualization of Drive!