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Governance Reimagined: Organizational Design, Risk, and Value Creation by David R. Koenig

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Chapter 8

Social Amplification and Tipping Points

In Part I of this book we discussed how complex systems of agents in networks interact to create things that didn't exist before. Ideas, products, services, political systems, and even festive gatherings can emerge when connected agents interact around some common interest. These relationships add value to our organizations by adding utility—the top part of our Value Equation—to those who interact with us.

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Sometimes these interactions lead to something really big. Mark Granovetter, a professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University wrote about big interactions as early as the 1970s, calling their starting points thresholds of collective behavior.1 His work inspired the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, whose book The Tipping Point was a New York Times best seller, bringing that expression into the mainstream lexicon. Both authors examine phenomena where the interactions among people reach a tipping point to such an extent that actions that are subsequently taken surprise us and perhaps even those taking them; products and ideas take off as fads or “go viral”—a modern reference to the spread of interest or adoption that mimics the dissemination of a viral contagion.

Roger and Jeanne Kasperson, along with Paul Slovic and others, take a look at a darker side of amplification, especially of negative risks. Their Social Amplification ...

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