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Amplifiers: The Power of Motivational Leadership to Inspire and Influence by Matt Church

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Chapter 8

Memes: the essence of an idea

Motivational leaders use the structure of ideas to make a difference: they really do need to think before they speak. An idea that is well constructed becomes a meme — it is able to be shared in a lot of different ways to people of all levels of understanding and still maintain its structural integrity.

The word ‘meme’ originated with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’s 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmission, and in the case of biological evolution that is the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behaviour and cultural evolution. The term meme has become synonymous with ideas, particularly ideas worth spreading.

Malcolm Gladwell, business journalist and author, wrote in The Tipping Point, ‘A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus — that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects’. Ideas that move through society are built on what is often referred to as social object theory. Put simply, what idea have you heard today that would make it to a dinner party tonight? Motivational leaders take the time to study the architecture of ideas and use this to increase understanding and the influential impact of what they are communicating.

It’s clear that ideas exist. They are, however, intangible, ...

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