Fade or gain?

An idea introduced to a population almost always fades away.

Send 1,000 people a coupon, and perhaps 20 use it. To get more usage, you either need to ping the audience again or find a new group of people.

This explains why marketers are always in search of new people to reach, and also insist on frequency of messaging–it maximizes the percentage of the group that is reached and minimizes the fade of the idea.

There's an important exception to the rule of fading ideas, though. Every once in a while, an idea starts with a small population and actually reaches new users, people outside the population. Instead of the idea fading, it gains traction as it spreads. Imagine a cold getting started at an elementary school but soon the cold infects parents, teachers and the co-workers of those parents…

Eventually, even these viral ideas fade away (if they didn't, then every single person on Earth would know about LOLcats and be into slacklining.) But before that happens, an idea spread by an excited tribe can have huge reach, particularly if it's digital.

One mathematical cause of this viral spread is the outlier who becomes quite active in sharing the idea. This superuser might tell a hundred or a thousand or more other people about it. Using his own pulpit, reaching his own tribe, the superuser raises the average (the R0 value) to over one, causing the idea to continue spreading.

Monday's publication of Stop Stealing Dreams has exceeded my expecations for feedback and impact. While a typical bestseller might sell 2,000 copies a day, this free manifesto was downloaded and shared more than 60,000 times since yesterday. I've gotten comments from around the world, and it's clear that the manifesto has struck a chord–and that's exactly why I wrote it. (Translations in two countries are already underway… I'll post them on the download page as they become available).

And now the moment of truth–will the people who read it, share it? Will they take the file and email it to 5 or 50 of their peers? Will they use it to start a conversation among parents or teachers or, best of all, students?