Chris Meyer dropped a buzzword yesterday that's sure to stick with us for a while. "Memes" are nuggets of culture that are fast replacing genes as the fundamental mutating element that moves our society forward. While genetically, we are as tall, strong and fast as we've ever been, our cultural evolution is what's really going to propel us into the next century.
It's like that image of man evolving, the one where he starts out as an ape and his posture gets better with each subsequent likeness until he is walking tall. Culturally, many of us are still that crawling primate. Maybe the ones on MySpace are starting to stand up.
But I think Chris made an interesting point about teams - that bringing in "meme diversity" can stimulate innovation. People from different backgrounds, with different degrees of cultural sensitivity, might be able to give the team fresh eyes and fresh thinking.
If the goal is to grow your cultural diversity, I wondered, how culturally diverse am I? How many memes can I name? What's going on in America, that everybody knows about?
So here's my best list in five minutes.
Red hot cheetos...the Academy Awards...Subservient Chicken...the Curiously Strong Mints...having an MBA...business travel...hitting a "home run"..."I wish I knew how to quit you"...childhood obesity...wardrobe malfunction.
Are these the memes Chris is talking about? Because after writing this list, I'm not so sure about the real impact here. Are these nuggets of culture or just buzzwords? Is there a difference? It seems like memes are often generated through top-down channels like media and entertainment, as opposed to bottom-up methods like two people having a conversation. So if movies and news are the main meme factories, how are they moving our society forward?
Perhaps my list is disastrously outdated and generic, and I need to go join MySpace. But hopefully meme diversity moves beyond good ad campaigns and starts to encompass more useful bodies of knowledge, things like Six Sigma and Accident Forgiveness and This American Life and the tipping point and game theory and geocaching and sidewalk art. So not the mainstream US culture, but the fringe culture. Those are the people that I want on my team, and those are the memes that will bring innovation.