Posts Tagged ‘speed of change’

Building Block #1: Memes

In Building Blocks, Communication, Innovation, Learning, Program Launch, Technology on October 15, 2012 at 3:32 am

America 2029

The concept of a meme—“an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture” (Merriam-Webster, 2012; in other words, something that “goes viral”)—has been around since 1976, coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192).  Not surprisingly, the concept of memes has gone viral, with students everywhere passing pictorial memes from the popular meme websites.  At the moment, though, everybody sending and receiving memes has no idea of their true power.

Pictures with text are an ideal form for a meme, although single-word and short-phrase concept titles also work well, like evolution, the Green Movement, diversity, and so on.  Just saying one of these phrases—in a positive way—lets you belong to a vast global movement.

Memes are driving forces in society.  Richard Dawkins created the term to explain sociological evolution.  To date, however, I don’t believe that anyone has tried to engineer social forces using memes—until now.

  • What if memes could be used as a universal communicator throughout the world?
  • Even within a nation, jargon creates language barriers.  A common meme-based vocabulary of words, phrases, and images, however, could break down those barriers.
  • Memes let you think across disciplines.  You don’t have to understand the underlying engine for an idea to refer to it.  You can talk about the Green Movement without even understanding its major components and ideals.  For example, you can speak about getting the Green Movement and advocates of diversity together to create a new global Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.  Memes let you think “big picture.”

Let us consider how memes might work as a social engineering force.

The ubiquitous smiley face has become overused (that’s a hazard of something that goes viral), yet most people still translate the image as “Have a nice day!”  Of course it also connotes happiness.  For that matter, emoticons and icons everywhere become universally recognized.

Consider the following statement:

If people around the world could agree to a simple formula like this, it would go viral, and millions of people could work together, independent of their mother nations, and their respective laws.  Naturally, the words would be translated by a translator into respective languages.  Once someone learns this meme, however, they can recognize it on a website regardless of the language.  What’s more, people of different languages can then carry on a simple dialog to agree (or disagree) on other principles based on other memes.

Consider the ramifications for the workplace.  Executives, industry experts, technology experts, trainers and mentors, administrative staff, salespeople, and more will be able to converse freely in memes.  Memes will serve as mantras to unite, while keeping core values front and center.

Do you see how memes will accelerate thinking and communication? If not, fasten your seatbelt.  If you thought ideas and events were happening too fast already, get ready for the meme-driven world.

Do you like this idea? Why not tell others about America 2029? The website is  Let’s see if the America 2029 logo can go viral!


Dawkins, Richard (1989). The Selfish Gene (2 ed.).  Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Merriam-Webster (2012).  Meme.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Chicago, IL: Britannica Online.  Retrieved 10 October 2012 from