Why #HRevolution is Contagious

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The HREvolution unconference will be taking place on October 6th at the Mandalay Bay in  Las Vegas (you can buy tickets here.  In the previous five years, the conference has been incredibly successful, growing from a small uenknown conference of 50 attendees in Louisville, KY in 2009 to its 6th iteration with 200+ attendees in October.  To explore why it has been so successful, I drew inspiration from Jonah Berger's book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On."  

In Contagious, Berger identifies six key components (with the acronym STEPPS) that allow messages or ideas to go viral:

1Social Currency

To Berger, social currency allows to share things that make us look good.   "Knowing cool things....make people seem sharp and in the know."   One has to break the pattern people have come to expect.

The unconference experience of HREvolution challenges the typical HR event in that instead of being passive observers, attendees are encouraged to participate and take the discussion in a different direction  than the presenter may have originally intended....this is a good thing.  

Further, social currency makes people feel like insiders, due to the scarcity and exclusivity of the idea or event. The limited number of people that attended the first iteration of HREvolution in Louisville generated quite the stir and excitement that others wanted to belong.

2.  Triggers

Triggers are things that are at the top of our mind or on the tip of the tongue.  According to Berger, "give people a product they enjoy, and they'll be happy to spread the word."  One creates ongoing word of mouth, where people talk about it weeks later.

HREvolution certainly has brought a strong response from others.  Excitement is shared on Twitter, Facebook or a blog about the experience.   When each event is over, people want to know when it will be occurring again.  Check out at some of the HREvolution experiences people have shared in the past, and actively recruit others to attend.

3.  Emotion

An idea becomes contagious when we care enough to share it with others.  It creates what Berger describes as the "power of awe."  For an idea to become contagious, it must focus on feelings.

HREvolution concentrates on conversations that haven't or aren't this taking place.  Whether it focuses on eliminating of keeping the performance review or the intersection of politics, pop culture and HR, HREvolution creates high arousal emotions that drive people to action and inspire attendees by showing how they can make a difference.

4.  Public

Berger argues that "when we can see other people doing something, we're more likely to imitate it."  This is the power of observability.  When one follows the HREvolution hashtag, the conference advertises itself when one sees the passion and excitement that is being tweeted by the attendees, and those not in attendance.  Just ask Steve Browne how he felt about missing it.

 5.  Practical Value

Does the idea help people help others? Does it provide news one can use.  

Not only do people take back to the workplace ideas from HRevolution that can create actionable change, it is incredibly cheap to attend.  Thanks to the kind people at SumTotal Systems, the premier sponsor of the event, 50 tickets are available at an early bird discount of $125.  In addition, registering for HRevolution gets you a code for $600 off the registration fee (most promotional codes you'll see in the coming months will be in the $500 range) for the HR Technology Conference.  It's almost like you get to attend HRevolution for $25.

6.  Stories

"Is the idea embedded in a broader narrative that people want to share?  Is the story not only viral, but also valuable?"

"Bifurcation." "Creepers."  "Cinco De Wempen."  People who have attended HREvolution soon develop their own jargon and stories of their shared experience.  See, for yet another example, the HR Improv session was particularly popular. 

In sum, I hope you see how exciting the HREvolution conference can be.  I was one of the 50 original attendees in Louisville and moved from simple acolyte to co-planner for the past three years.

I hope to see you in Las Vegas in October.

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