Popular topic these days, infidelity; and no, I’m not going to give you ’50 Creative Ways to Leave Your Spouse’. What I’m referring to here is a dynamic based on a new niche in psychology referred to as memetics, as popularized in Richard Brodie’s book Virus of the Mind. He defines a ‘meme’ as an idea, or unit of information, in one person’s mind that self-replicates, or spreads to other minds virally. They are internal representations of knowledge, or views on how we see the world, that result in outward effects on the world.
In any culture, be it national, ethnic or corporate, there is a rigorous survival dance between the forces of tradition and change. Tradition exemplifies stability and therefore asks fidelity, or faithfulness, to ways steeped in the history or past experience of that environment. The rituals, practices and processes that are carved out by way of either ‘the proper way it’s done’, habit or so-called ‘best-practice’ allows the identity of that group to be perpetuated and recognized by practitioners and outsiders alike. Torch bearers, card carriers and brand consistency are all terms associated with the ‘memes’ that beat the drum of belonging and keepin’ on keepin’ on.
Meanwhile, we’re all bombarded with reminders that change is the new paradigm and only those who can keep up with- or even better- become change agents, will survive. This new meme of the urgent imperative to embrace, foster and even champion change requires we engage in ‘creative infidelity’. We have to challenge old norms and previous ways of ‘business as usual’. We have to become unfaithful to and divorced from old, cozy habits which may have served us well in the past and we must come up with novel ways to perpetuate our cultural or corporate lineage. This requires courting new ideas, seducing untapped talent and value from existing resources, making new connections in the name of progress and engaging all parties involved to go along with the new ways of performing. And we assume it is progress.
What fascinates me in the whole process is the power of the meme; the sound-bite meaning-laden concept which serves a dual purpose. In physics it is now said that energy is both a particle and a wave at any given time, but not both at once. I sense that a meme is similar. Based on some event or mere proclamation, at one point in time an emergent meme stakes a claim in the cultural landscape proclaiming its arrival and existence. “I’m here! It’s my turn now! Look at me! I’m the new New!” And , we of swivel-necked short attention spans turn our heads en -masse and collectively jump on the bandwagon. This is now facilitated by traditional and social media networks that spread memes globally at lightning speed, for better or worse. Many memes simply arise, but they can also be planted on purpose. It is even considered successful marketing if your meme wins the Search Engine Optimization prize of high Google ranking or makes it on the Oprah show.
That meme, having established itself as the new norm, now becomes the reference point from which cultures and corporations start their thought processes in relation to that issue and from which they take action. In French the word meme means ‘same’. So it helps us understand that the concept of meme deals with getting alignment of new thought among the masses so they all think the same way., at least until the next meme pops on the scene. So there’s an inter-weaving between seminal moments in time where a meme enters human consciousness and the subsequent flow and viral spread of a meme.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Small business grew into big business from its ability to offer many jobs and offer a desirable product or service to the masses. That was considered a good thing until the corporate system squeezed out the little guys and became mechanized through cost-benefit market efficiencies. The meme shifted. Now Big Business was decried for its inhumanity, which eventually bred a meme for CSR- Corporate Social Responsibility- which was born to be able to re-humanize corporate structures and activities for both insiders and those affected by the reach of the organization. This has now evolved into a new field of Corporate Virtue and Ethics as a base from which strategic decisions are made and new reach is sought in the name of doing good. And so it evolves over time.
By the way, the meme itself comes with no value judgement; it exists to replicate and perpetuate itself. It is we humans who latch on to new memes and manage the change by adding our labels, values, rationales and justifications to a meme. This then allows and, indeed, invites us to practice ‘creative infidelity’ by looking and acting in new novel ways as we seek to stay up to date in the modern world. Over time, as many people accept the meme and it becomes embedded in society, that becomes part of the acceptable cultural tradition.
Memes do happen naturally as cultures and ideas bump up against each other; with outcomes unknown. I believe you can, however, harness the power of your mind and use creativity tools to stimulate and leverage meme generation. This process has been used in history by people who wanted to wield power or make a difference, for good or evil.
We can use the power of memes ourselves, starting on a personal level, to design the life of our dreams and move upward and outward to ‘be the change’ we seek in the world.
In their new book, Mind Chi, authors Richard Israel and Vanda North suggest a method of harnessing the explosive power of a meme in moving us from our present situation to our chosen professional goals as well. The meme acts as the proverbial stake in the ground which keeps us from wandering too far off. It also serves to attract all our thoughts and actions into alignment as we take actions and make choices on the way to achieving our goals. So the meme acts as both a lightning rod and conductor of all our thoughts and actions, gathering momentum like a rising tide to catapult us towards our desired outcomes.
To set up a Mind Chi Plan you need to include the following elements:
Your chosen goal and current reality in relation to that goal- as clear in your mind as possible by imagining through all your senses what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, tastes like and smells like
- Your transformational Mind Chi meme- a positive self-talk phrase that directs and aligns your thoughts in support of your goal
- Your current Mind Chi BEAT- acknowledgement of how you are currently functioning at levels of Body, Emotions, Actions and Thoughts in relation to your goal
- Your preferred Mind Chi BEAT- expression of how you want to feel at levels of Body, Emotions, Actions and Thoughts when your goal is achieved
- Action steps to move you from where you are to where you want to be, recognizing that some steps will become clearer as you move towards your goal
So if your goal were to ‘be an effective speaker’, and you assess your current situation to be that ‘my presentation skills are weak and I get nervous in large groups’ then you could set up a meme that says “I choose to improve my presentation skills and enjoy presenting.” You then analyze your Mind Chi BEAT for both your current situation and desired goal and.
The underlying dynamic of the Mind Chi Plan is structural tension , where you practice ‘flexible focus’, noticing the discrepancy, distance, or tension between the way things are now and how you want them to be. You use the transformational power of the meme to keep you on track as you take action steps towards achieving your goal. While your goal remains fixed, although further clarity make arise as your get closer, your day to day BEAT will be changing. This is transformation in the works and can be applied to any goal, humble or audacious .
This process can be applied to multiple goals in your business and personal life. By capitalizing on the power of the meme you send strong messages to your subconscious to align with your chosen goal, which facilitates their manifestation. As you grow in ability to ‘work your meme’, you gain personal power that will spread to anywhere you are active. You then become what I refer to as a ‘Meme Beam’, causing transformation on ever-expanding levels of impact. You have become the change you seek in the world, and your expression of creative infidelity will have become a virtue.