Spread a smile
This morning, I quite fortuitously stumbled a charming little video around the theme “smile and the world will smile with you“.
Without spoiling the story, a parking attendant sets the whole world smiling while he validates tickets at his counter in his gloomy, underground office. Ostensibly, this is a touchy-feely, Polyanna-type, love story of a hero’s journey in 16.5 minutes. The hero hears a call and sets off to ‘win the rings’. He encounters trials and tribulations along the way, meets his nemesis, succumbs briefly to despair and then adjusting to reality, continues his life’s work. Like all good love stories, everything ends happily.
A coach or trainer could use this video to explain the meaning of
- emotional contagion
- hero’s journey.
It is a pleasant 16.5 minutes on a grey Sunday morning in the northern hemisphere.
Look out for the network effect
The reason I am flagging the video, though, is that it demonstrates the network effect of happiness. Fowler & Cristakis’ article in the BMJ on happiness and networks exploded into the blogosphere during the last fortnight. Everyone in the personal development space, from Harvard down to myself reported this article in one way or another. Its press coverage alone would make an amazing student research project. I’ll let Zemanta recommend some of the articles for you to read.
Most reports took a slightly simplistic view of ‘smile and the world will smile with you’. Network effects are hard for us to understand. Hidden in the story is an example of the network. Someone began to smile when the network smiled. I won’t say more, but look out for it!
As we reach the end of the video, it is easy to miss the import of the network effect, or to treat it as a just crutch to help the story along. In a typical narrative, we focus on the hero, the hero’s actions and in shallow stories, on the hero’s rewards. In deeper stories, we will look at the interaction of the hero’s character and circumstances. How did he bring circumstances about? How did he choose to react? How did he change as a result?
I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. After you’ve watched the video, maybe you can ask yourself whether the network effects matter and whether it matters whether we can explain it well to our clients?
I’d love to collaborate on developing a set of narratives and stories that help clients understand how this works and how they can use it to understand their work.
Please do drop me a comment if you would like to collaborate.
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- The Sun, David Whyte
- Happiness and research: looking for a research buddy
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