Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Ripple Effect

"Each choice we make causes a ripple effect in our lives. When things happen to us, it is the reaction we choose that can create the difference between the sorrows of our past and the joy of our future."

Unknown

When you drop a pebble into a still pond, you'll see a splash... You'll notice concentric circles rippling out from the center, where the pebble hit the water. You may watch the ripple travel out in an ever expanding ring...

But, the pebble might also have other effects. As it sinks it might scare a bunch of fish (so appropriate to remember on this site), or frighten a duck enough so that it leaps out of the water. A simple act of throwing the pebble into the pond caused change, and you are connected to the pebble, the water and through the effects of throwing to the fish and the duck.

The term "Ripple Effect" was coined by Jacob Kounin in 1970, to describe the effect teachers may exert on students. The term itself spread beyond the field of education, as it applies to our everyday lives.

Ripple effect reminds us that no action is without reaction, and the ripples, in some cases, may be far-reaching.

As I read through couple of wonderful posts today, I could not help but think of the ways in which people from here (people that I have never met) and the words that they write affect my life and create the ripple effect... whether they know it or not.

Our thoughts and our actions are like that pebble, dropped into still waters, in as much as they create ripples that spread and expand outwards. What we think and what we do affects the people in our lives and their reactions in turn affect others... they all add to the ripple.

So, what I would like to ask of you is to think about the ways in which you were a pebble that initiated changes, or about the ways in which the ripples affected you.

Each of us has a capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse. The choices that we make have real consequences, in our own lives and in lives of others. I would like to hear about the people whose words or actions changed your world, as well as about the ways in which you have impacted others... in this pond, or outside of it - in real life.


***

Sometimes we affect people unintentionally... without ever trying... or are affected by those who did not try, or do not even know that they affected us.

I had a chance to meet a Holocaust survivor some time ago. He was in Mathauzen and Auswitchz. His father was killed in front of him when he was 12. He spoke about his experiences during the war, the anger that he felt afterwards. About the ways in which he tried to get revenge and how empty he felt.

And then he spoke about love and about learning to let go of his anger... About realizing that his anger was toxic to his own being, and that in order to heal he had to stop being angry and forgive those who imprisoned him and killed almost all of his family members and millions of others.

I just sat there... tears running down my face.

I went to my office and started thinking about what he said. And, I realized that if he was able to forgive (not to forget, but to forgive), who the hell am I to be angry about anything and at anyone?? I let go of my anger that day. I forgave those who wronged me, and I felt that my own heart was hurting less. I started healing.

I don't do anger since that day. I just don't.
For my own sake...

That man has no idea what he did for me.
He will never know.
But, that day will stay with me forever.


***

Twelve years ago I moved to this country. I came to attend school. I have never even been to the US prior to that.

The flight to Los Angeles was long, exciting but also terrifying. Knowing that I won't see my family for at least nine months was saddening and I cried for a long time. Once I managed to get over that I realized that I was scared. I had no idea what awaits me, I was scared of the new place, new school, classes in English, people who were bound to be so different from the people I knew. I was overwhelmed by fear... scared sh1tless, to put it nicely.

As we finally approached LA, and flew over that vast city I thought of the abys that I will imminently fall into, all alone. I could hardly breathe at that point.

Sitting next to me was a young Mexican family; mom, dad and a little 2 year old girl. We did not talk during the flight, I was wrapped in my own emotions and they slept for the most part. They woke up and started getting ready for landing. The little girl noticed me and started talking to me... In Spanish, of course...I had no idea what she was saying. Then, she looked me and smiled, she extended her little arm to me and in her palm was a candy... a fruity kind...newer saw it before...

Suddenly, I felt at peace with myself. It seemed as though this little girl is a face of my new world, the new life that awaits me... smiling at me, reassuring me that everything will be all right.

The week after arriving to LA was probably among the top 3 most difficult times in my life. I won't go into details here. Suffice to say that several times I felt that I should just head back to the airport and return home, that this was too much for me to handle. But, each time that thought entered my mind I'd see the little girl smiling at me, I'd look at the candy she gave me and I knew that I will survive.

The ripple effect of a random act of kindness.

I still have that candy... and I can still see her smile.


***

I posted above my experiences that were positive, but I was affected even more by some of the experiences that were difficult and painful. The worst experiences of my life taught me perhaps the most valuable lessons.

I said earlier that I have seen the face of evil and I did. I have seen the faces of people who killed others and who would not think twice before harming me... their intention was to crush my spirit, but they could have annihilated my physical existence if they wanted... they already did it to many others. They were in control of my body and of my freedom; there was nothing that I could have done to change it. If they wanted, they could have ruined not only my life, but lives of those who I love the most.

The reason that the worst did not happen was not anything I have done or said, nor was it a sudden chage of heart that they had. The events unfolded the way they did due to historical circumstances, and it was my sheer luck that what happened to me happened at that particular time and not few months earlier. If it happened earlier, or if the changes that took place did not happen, I would not be here and I would not be writing these words.

It took me a while to get over that experience... to stop having nightmares. But, I got over it, on my own... no help of drugs... no shrinks. I came out of it stronger and wiser. I also came out of it with knowledge about the horrors that humans can inflict on others. I am now able to understand better how people on receiving end feel. I can empathize with their suffering because I know that what happened to me is just a tip of the iceberg and I know how terrifying it was and how shaken I was by it. I came out even more convinced that when one sees evil, one should speak out if she wants to make a difference, no matter the consequences. I came out being more able to relate to the pain of others, and perhaps that might make some difference in their lives....

My own little footprint in this world.

Because we all leave the footprint.

*****


Yes, we did not really talk about those people... people who create havoc... often intentionally.

I have encountered them... one and many... many as one.
People without face... who leave destruction on their path.

I pointed one of them (Before I realized just What he is) to this thread... and he said he could not post in it because "it's too mushy... too much estrogen" he said. In retrospect, I realized that he could not possibly post in a thread like this. Because he is either totally unaware of the ripples he makes, or (more likely) he does not care.

I cannot help but wonder about people like that... trying to put myself in their shoes... How can they detach so much? Is there a heart inside?

If one is not careful... if one lets such a person into her life... we cannot control what they will do... what they will break...
We are not responsible for their actions as we do not control them.
However... we control our responses and reactions to them... and we can chose not to let their ripple spread... in a cycle of pain and hurt.
Because if we do... they win.

I would still rather be hurt than hurt another.
My wounds will heal... even if they leave a scar.
But the wounds inflicted on another... they Have to make a mark on your own being... an ugly scab, that will follow you around... poisoning your own existence.

****
I am aware of the ripples that *I* make... I try to make more of the good ones... every moment of my life.
Right now I am trying to forgive myself for letting someone to create those other ripples... ripples of pain and hurt. As I am reeling from that experience... as I am gasping for air... just trying to keep my head above the water... it's hard not to say to myself "how stupid were you not to realize what was going on?"... it's hard to forgive myself for doing nothing wrong but trusting someone who should not have been trusted.

I've been at peace with myself and with my life for a long time... but, I lost that recently and I need to get there.
*shrugs*
Not the easiest path to find.

****


 This is something I posted somewhere else... long ago... I want to save it here... so, I can remind myself of it when I need it...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Violence, Justice and Integrity

Last night in Oakland police acted as if they were at war with citizens of their own town. They fired rubber bullets and tear gas. They gassed people in wheel chairs, journalists, those who were just trying to help the injured. They put their helmets on, riot gear ready, and charged as it they are a demolition team. I watched it over the internet, horrified by what I was seeing.

The scenes on the screen reminded me of violence in Serbia during Milosevic, violence at Tahir Square, violence in many other Arab countries. I could not stop thinking if American Fall will turn into an Arab Spring, not by achieving democratic changes, but by shedding the blood of those dared to challenge status quo, of those who dared to dream of equality, of those who dared to think that they can make world a better place.

I wonder sometimes what the cops who were arresting civil rights movement protesters tell their children, or grandchildren, about what they did.
I also wonder what the cops who are arresting "occupy" protesters will tell their children. How will they justify using violence against peaceful protesters, who promoted social justice and democracy?

"I was just following the orders."
We heard that already.

I wonder how and when does one chose between the orders and her integrity. I wonder if there were any police officers, in the last 5 weeks, who said "I will NOT follow that order."

I hope there were and I hope there will be.

Because without hope there is no future.






Saturday, November 13, 2010

Implications of Social Networks

Someone asked me recently "what are the implications of companies and brands participating in social networks?", as I answered that question I realized this might be of interest to others and so the blog is born... 

At this time, I'd address this as benefits for companies that participate (costs/dangers of participation is something I might address in the future), as this is probably a question that a marketing department of the company would most likely ask (though, I believe that benefits reach beyond just marketing of the company and will address that as well). 


I would break down my answer into three separate categories, based on types of social networks involved: 
1. internal social networking (networks within the organization)
2. external social networking (i.e. presence on Facebook, Twitter, or number of similar sites)
3. internal-external networking (i.e. networking that takes place on company's site and create community encompassing insiders as well as outsiders).


Internal Social Networks:

As many companies transition to enterprise software, digital asset management, cloud computing, and other forms of gathering and sharing data, they start to see the benefits on intra-networks: facilitated collaboration, increased knowledge transfer within the organization, increased opportunities for peer reviews, creation of smaller teams within the organization organically based on the participants' interests, increased productivity as they cut down the "noise" of endless emails, creation of wikis as knowledge encyclopedias, increased involvement of  employees in a more active and participatory/network  exchanges (as opposed to hierarchical) and, thus, decentralized decision making.


External networks:

When it comes to external social networking I can see number of benefits there as well. According to Forrester Research, overall adoption of social networks is at about 80% of people in the U.S. Others estimate that about 80% of Americans are now on Facebook alone, and out of those who are not 1/5 plans to join. They use social networks for all kinds of things, from connecting with long lost friends, to staying in touch with family, to connecting & recommending brands/companies to family, friends etc.(http://3.ly/3282) And, this is where the benefits for a company/brand kick in... Most people trust personal recommendations more than adds, so social networks are one of the ways to reach out and expand the potential customer base

For example, creating a facebook page, that aims much broader audience then just developers and web architects, could lead - if interesting enough - to a base of future developers or architects, particularly among college students, who tend to spend 4-5 hours a day on FB these days, and tend to abandon traditional forms of web surfing. In a similar manner, growing the Twitter base from little over 1,000 to over 5,000 in a relatively short period of time also increases visibility. Even if you assume that only 1/3 will actually read the tweets, it's way more than the traffic that a company had in the past and spreads the awareness about the brand

The trick, of course, is also finding the right networks and making yourself visible on those networks. Facebook is one example, but Linkedin also comes to mind, or weebiz. I imagine there are also networks mostly frequented by IT people/developers, etc. - those are also places where you want to be present... not just as a company that advertises there (I don't think that buying banners is a way to go), but by encouraging employees to participate actively in conversations & forums.


Internal/external networks

By the same token, creating company's own forums will actively engage followers and partners - if you respond to their questions, praises, and most importantly complaints you will increase loyalty to the brand. Forums will also encourage horizontal connections between customers and partners (as well as communication between your company and customers/partners). People tend to be more loyal if they are personally involved, it makes stronger ties (see Gladwell's article, which is relevant tho it's more focused on activism and networks). Furthermore, if their contribution is recognized by the company itself, it will make them feel proud and will help the company to identify "influencers" - those who are connected and share .

Moreover, if you are successful here, you will be able to turn the customers into the evangelists. DayIgnite 2010 in Chicago, where all registered participants received iPads (with one of the best apps I have seen, instead of conference program in a form of a bulky book AND ugly canvas bag, as we usually get at the ASA) and most of them tweeted from the even in real time (see #dayignite on Twitter) was an impressive example of such engagement. In sociological terms, it was a moment of "collective effervescence" that could be recreated online as well, and could build up the "buzz" around company's product (in Day's case making it a "cool enterprise software", if that's not an oxymoron in an of itself). 

But, what does this do for a company? You may think about company's visibility as series of concentric, sometimes overlapping, but always expanding circles. The more people learn about the company, the more people there are that THEY will tell/post/tweet to, and the potential customer base is growing. The tweets from DayIgnite were not read only by "usual suspects" but by followers of all who posted them... and that's something the company would want to encourage. Once again, people tend to put more faith in "personalized" recommendations or experiences (as opposed to traditional marketing).

Social networks (both internal external and external) provide a chance for a company to get a real time feedback and "check the pulse" of its audience -- see what the glitches are, as well as recognize the positive features of the product. Two consequences come to mind: Firstly, finding out what should be highlighted in traditional marketing approaches. Secondly, the feedback could lead to increased innovation - whether it is something that your customers point out as a problem and your employees work out a solution for, or it is something they share through the company's website/or social network site that can be included into the next version of the product. Thirdly, the more people participate in a conversation, the more decentralized the conversation is, chances are that the new product or new marketing campaign will be more successful. Even though all your employees may be uber-smart not ALL the smart people work for you. You need to work with smart people inside and outside of the company. 

To conclude, by strategically positioning company within social network, you create social capital, something that might be more difficult to measure but is probably as important as any other form of capital and creates new opportunities (or constrains, depending on how the company is positioned). Being more involved in social networks can create connections outside of your usual groups. People tend to hang out with people who are like them... expanding the network might help you expand the horizons and think outside of your usual box. Finally, social networks are here to stay (at least for a while) and thus should be seen and integrated strategically. They should also be seen as SOCIAL (or sociological) phenomena (not only technological) that needs to be approached from a sociological perspective in order to be useful - observing patterns of interaction and engagement, and incorporating it with other strategic plans and decisions is a must for a company that wants to continue to be successful in the future.


This is probably longer than it should be... academics tend to be wordy.... feel free to let me know what you think of it.

MissRed


PS Couple of links that helped me think this through, in case you want more readings.