Contagious Excellence

What is the first word that comes to mind, when you hear ‘Contagious Excellence’?





Why are there so many cons associated with the word “contagious”?! Why can’t we take the “con” out of “contagious” and add a little more “pro”? Why can’t it be “Protagious”?

At IW, we like to challenge social conventions and flip the world around sometimes. And so, for our final SpeakEasy of the year, we gathered a room full of business shapers, HR leaders and L&D professionals to help us explore this “new” world where the contagion was seen as something positive. Something like “Excellence”. We wanted to see if excellence could “catch on” and spread from person to person, directly or indirectly, with minimal effort from the originator, in the same way a contagious disease can.

Through a series of interactive exercises involving a deck of cards and some Jenga blocks, we played around with a number of ideas and theories, drawn from the fields of sociology, science and psychology.

Ideas like:

  • Contagious impact starts with simplicity. The contagion (in our case “excellence”) has to be simple enough for people to understand easily, pick up quickly and pass on willingly.
  • The growth of a simple contagion is fuelled by culture. Culture is the language, the stories and the rituals that shape our conscious and unconscious behaviour. So, in order to create Contagious Excellence, we first need to create a Culture of Excellence.
  • Viral behaviours can be strengthened by the cohesiveness of a group. Our desire to “stick together” stems from our cavemen (and women) days, where the need to belong to a certain tribal community was crucial for our survival. This desire to pick up and embrace the behaviours of a group is the reason why we sometimes exhibit inexplicable behaviours in group settings, behaviours we may not usually exhibit if we were alone.
  • Leverage the power of competition to break through traditional barriers. Before Sir Roger Bannister broke the record for the four-minute mile, it was believed that it was physically and scientifically impossible for a human to run that distance within that time. Since Bannister’s record, there have been more than 1,400 athletes who have accomplished the same feat. This isn’t because people’s legs have miraculously become quicker. It was because a new standard had been re-set.

So what did I learn from these ‘Contagious Principles’ over the course of a two-hour SpeakEasy?

I learnt that with a clear standard, high levels of engagement and a supportive tribe you can achieve excellence without the hard work.

Now that’s an idea worth spreading!

Have a watch of our video to see what we got up to on the day…