By David Lee on October 19, 2011 · tagged as , , , , ,

Crazy. Crazy. Crazy. Obvious: The natural history of a new idea

from Daniel Alexandre | Photography

How do new ideas get adopted?  Manufacturers want us to buy their new products – who already got the new iPhone 4S? Yet there is a similarity in our sexual violence and domestic violence prevention work. Only in our case, we want to shift community norms to accept new ideas that will prevent violence instead by buying a new phone (even when my old one still works.). For example, many of us want people to become active bystanders to take actions to prevent violence to take place.  This is part of the work of many bystander prevention programs such as Green Dot, Bringing in the Bystander and MVP.  Hollaback’s new I’ve Got Your Back campaign also seeks to change what is seen as the normal behavior.

Still, the question remains, how does the new idea get adopted? I refer to the behavior theory Diffusion of Innovation (developed by Evert M. Rogers) that looks how an idea spreads over time to different populations.  In the blog The Technium, this was described as four steps in the “natural history of a new idea.”

1) Outright wacko. “This is worthless nonsense”
2) Odd but unproven. “This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.”
3) True but trivial. “This may be correct, but it is quite unimportant.”
4) Obvious. “What’s new? This is what we’ve said all along.”

Otherwise translated as “Crazy. Crazy. Crazy. Obvious.” While the blog applies this concept to heart transplants, here is a version looking at bystander responses:

1) Outright wacko. “There is no way I will do anything.”
2) Odd but unproven. “Someone could do something, but it won’t matter.”
3) True but isolated . “OK, that makes sense, but I might be the only one who cares.”
4) Obvious. “Of course we do something; that is what everyone does.”

The work of prevention is to make the desired behavior become the obvious behavior.

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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