Like many marketers, I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s explanation of the how ideas and trends move through society. His law of the few suggests that rare, highly connected people shape the world. The idea there exist a handful of influential people who can have huge impact on the acceptance of an idea was appealing on two levels:

1) It certainly simplified my job. If I could find the Influential People for a given product category, I could concentrate marketing efforts, and let them carry the message forward.

2) And, I kind of considered myself an Influential, so it fed my ego … just a little

Then along comes this thought-provoking article in Fast Company magazine about Duncan Watts, who believes a trend depend on timing and societal readiness to accept the given trend. If those elements are in place, anyone can start a trend.

Watt’s research indicates influential people may effectively move a trend further; they are no more likely to start the trend.

Darn, just when I thought I had it figured out. But the more I thought about it, the more I believe he may be right. As an example, I look at the growth of Rainmakers, Indy’s most viral biz association. While we grew initially on the personality and influence of a handful of well connected people, today it is a virus spread by what Watts would call the accidental influential.

So read the article, then tell me what you think.