Sometimes it seems like the harder I am working, the less time I have to scan the horizon for what is coming next. Social media refuses to sit still and today’s darling-in-beta can quickly become yesterday’s news. So to leverage the brains at SMG we have instituted InnovationCamp, which is basically an internal unconference. The purpose is for a couple of volunteers to quickly summarize a new technology, thought-provoking idea, case study, etc in a few minutes and then discuss together as a group.

The format we have defined, which is something that I ripped off from an old episode of the Gillmor Gang Podcast, is as follows:

  1. What? – Define the purpose of the discussion; technology, problem, challenge, etc.
  2. So What? – Why does this matter? Why shold anyone care?
  3. Now What? – How does this change the landscape? How can this be used? Are there applications for us or our clients? What trends does this illustrate?

I did one of two sessions last week and despite coming up with the format I ignored it and did a summary of my investigations over the years on how stuff spreads around the Internet. The most discussed aspect was the “Why Do People Forward Stuff?” section. Many people belive that they forward things to others out of some form of altruism (i.e. “I thought you would find this interesting”), but when you dig a little deeper it is revealed that the real reason people do it is for various forms of self-enhancement.

  1. “Street Cred” – Improving one’s status in the community by being more “in-the-know” than the recipient of the forwarded material. Status goes up if the recipient deems the material valuable and novel and goes down if it is off-base or old.
  2. Rewarding the Good – If a message resonates with someone and they believe it is beneficial to society or supports their point of view, they will forward the material as act of further propogating their beliefs.
  3. Verifying Judgement – Sometimes we aren’t sure of the value of something, so we try to open a dialogue with others to verify whether our judgement is correct or to know what to think.
  4. To Connect – Sometimes we forward things just to shout out and say “hey, I still exist.”
  5. Pay back – We all know people who send us the good stuff, but no one likes a one-sided arrangement, so sometimes we forward things to these people as a way to even the scales.
  6. Badge – Sometimes what we forward to others just says something about us as individuals, our sense of humour, our philosphies, our ideals, etc. This acts as a badge that helps us to define who we are to others.

Disclosure: The above reasons are an adapted version of the research of Andrea Wojnicki of the Rotman School of Business from her paper “Word-of-Mouth as Self Enhancement”.