Your company is a copying machine

Behaviours (good or bad) spread like an infectious disease

Because we are social animals, we look for signs that others are adopting a particular behaviour, and seek confirmation through converging signals. Those signals can come from multiple channels (more on that in this other article). When we find those signals, then we start adopting those behaviours ourselves, so that we are accepted by others and feel safe. Through that process, behaviours get copied. They become the proof of our very social nature and necessity to « belong ». This process is at work in our private life, in our social life, but also in our work life.

Not everyone copies all behaviours. Initially, with no particular form of pressure on us, some of us copy behaviours of people they feel close to, people they trust, people they admire, people who inspire them etc… Sometimes, we just wait until the vast majority of people have adopted a particular behaviour, and then we feel pulled to adopt it too. It is called « group pressure ». But eventually, be it because we feel inspired or pulled, the adoption of certain behaviours by others around us will lead to us change our own behaviour, slowly but surely. At scale, this is called « culture evolution ».

We are copying machines. At home, in our social life, and in organizations just the same. So from a behavioural perspective, companies are gigantic copying machines!

Who gets copied for what, and by whom?

Once the mechanism of copying is understood and you know how people’s behaviour will replicate, you are much further, but you are not very far. You still need to know who copies whom, and get into the « soft » side of your organization. This is usually where management stops. Too complex? Too fluffy? Impossible to map? On all of those points, see our other articles. But one thing is sure: you CAN map your organization and find your real « change angels ». Those employees other employees will copy. Those others will watch. Those who are in fact the true leaders of your organization. Some of them will be managers, sometimes even top managers. But you will find many other « change angels ». You may expect to find there your « usual suspects », i.e. people who are outspoken, good communicators, who speak during workshops, who ask questions in « all hands » internal meetings, who volunteer for new projects etc… They are typically the ones top management see first and remember. But are they your true influencers? Well… You will be surprised to find that many of your true informal influencers are in fact introverts. They are the ones others trust precisely because they observe a lot, listen carefully, speak last with a sensible point of view, don’t try to impress others or be visible to management, and because they do what they say and know how to keep a secret.

For more on how humanize can help you map your « change angels » : read this article. No time to read? You can also click here to book free time with us and discuss your situation .

I want to use that machine please!

Behaviours spread because they get copied in the organization, and informal influencers play a key role in this process. So if I want to change the culture, I need to leverage that copying machine. Plain simple. The goal will be to have behaviours we want to see being replicated through the machine. After a certain while, enough people will have copied a certain behaviour (because they were inspired – this is phase 1), and the process will reach a « tipping point » after which it becomes more difficult to resist than to adopt that behaviour (because of the « group pressure » – this is phase 2). At that point, the desired behaviour will have become the social norm of the group. Culture is ­the outcome of repeated behaviours.

« Got it! But how do I do that? ». Understanding this mechanism is already a good start. Leveraging it intentionally is the next step. At humanize, operating this copying machine to its maximum potential is our expertise! We will help you use the right tools and approaches at the right moment, because they will be different in each phase! More behaviours definition and informal networks leveraging in phase 1, more circulation of stories and leaders confirmation in wave 2.

Interested? Need support? Call us!