We live in a time of unprecedented change. Not just environmental and ecological but political too.
The old institutions, the old organisations, are losing relevance. They are slowly but surely disconnecting from the people they intended to serve. We see this commercially. Bye bye Thomas Cook. We see it politically. Hello Boris. Hello Donald.
And in the face of unprecedented change, what do you choose? To hold on tighter? Inevitably, you will fall.
Alternatively, you can agitate, you can shake the bottle. You can get active.
Activists play by different rules.
In acting, activists send signals.
Their behaviour signals their difference. And while they’re signalling their difference, the old order reinforces its increasing irrelevance by repeating everything it’s always done. The familiar patterns and ways of working which made the organisation or institution strong become the patterns which reinforce a growing irrelevance.
Take political parties. Oh no, I hear you say. Yes, they’re a mess. We’re in party conference season here in the UK. Each of the main parties meets, gets some dedicated airtime and, in doing so, an opportunity to make a case for their version as leadership.
These meet and greets were important. A chance to come together, to debate, to own the news, albeit it for a short, but dedicated, window.
But are they now?
The political institutions, like many large commercial organisations and institutions, are increasingly unfit for purpose. They are increasingly disconnected from the people they’re intended to serve.
And in repeating the old behaviours, in talking the old talk in the old ways via the old channels, they just reinforce a story of disconnection.
The activist plays by different rules.
The Brexit Party likes to represent the new breed. Not of the old school. A true representative of the people. And this is reinforced creating new channels, new behaviours.
And these behaviours signal their point of difference.
No party conference for them. Instead, they’ve organised about a dozen small rallies, an opportunity to speak to and spend time with their constituents up and down the country. And to do so beyond the glare of the old school media. They are forging a direct relationship. They are growing and cementing their ideas in partnership with the people who can further them.
That they’re doing it differently reinforces the idea that they’re different. And the strategy is smart too (whatever the politics). Be direct. Go where your audience are. Be in dialogue with your most important constituents (whoever they might be). Establish a new set of behaviours, free of the old ideas.
This is what an activist does. Establishes new rules. Runs by new behaviours.
And in so doing, they shift the dial, they make the old look even older.
They establish a new positioning and identity for their movement.