The safety of the crowd

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Human behavior and technology trends are well documented. We are all familiar with the bell curve model, showing the distribution of Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards when it comes to people engaging with a new technology. There is a certain amount of calculus that goes into figuring out when, if at all, you want to jump into a new approach. There are different levels of risk and reward for each. But it isn’t all about doing the financial math.

As people, we have this innate desire to stay in a group and to maintain uniformity with others. The way people behave in lines is a fascinating example. If there are two airport security lines and one is shorter than the other, many people will go to the longer line because they assume that if everyone is there, that perhaps they are not meant to be in the shorter one. Satirical comedies love to make fun of the crowds of New York hipsters who will delightedly wait in line for hours for the latest hot restaurant or deconstructed snack.

On a primal level, we are social creatures who prefer to be one in a crowd.

We also like to be the first to discover the Next Big Thing - to be the one the rest of the crowd is following. You’ll see this language on many tech start up and VC marketing materials - companies will sell themselves as the future of the industry, as the pioneers of their field.

This is where the world of science actually has a real advantage over the hipsters. As technologists and scientists, you can use various third party entities, scientific methods, review boards, and other opportunities to validate your work and defend its value. While everything that you do might be “really cool,” it is also so much more than that, and you can talk about it.

In this way, you can be a pioneer and stand out from the crowd, while also relying ON the crowd to provide support for your venture. In the world of Social Capital, we call this relying on Product Validation and Key Influencers. Understanding who the players are who can drive the crowds will have you being the one everyone is in line for.