How to Start a Movement

Mark Frasco - President


My family just completed a European holiday. One of our stops was Paris. I have not been especially drawn to visit the largest city in France, but when our planning for this trip came into focus, I fell in line – yes, my wife was the champion for our first visit to this city on the Seine.

This is not the subject of this article, but I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in my life when my impression of something was so incredibly moved by my experience with it. Paris is not only one of the most aesthetically beautiful cities in the world, its people are wonderfully inviting and refined. It is impossible to have a conversation about modern politics, art, food or world culture without tracing fundamental elements back to Paris.

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Musée d’Orsay. This museum is home to many of the world’s first and most notable impressionist pieces of art. To name a few, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh, had significant exhibits at d’Orsay.

The Monet painting displayed in this article, was completed in 1872. It is recognized as the namesake of the impressionist movement. Before these naturally set, impressionist pieces came onto the Paris art scene, artists worked in studios, accurately painting still lifes and portraits, often depicting historically significant events and people. This was not only a description of what paintings were, but to some extent what they were expected to be.

France’s Académie des Beaux-Artsm, and its predecessor dating back to the 17th century, took great responsibility in monitoring and setting the content and standards for artists, favoring precision and realism. Long story short, the impressionists were gaining greater popularity and over time resented their work being rejected by the Académie. So, they created their own independent society, gaining the agreement of all participants that they would swear off displaying their work with the Académie. You might say, they started a movement. Their leadership laid the foundation that has largely built the modern art genre.

This time of year we are all preparing our New Year plans. If you’re wanting to start a movement in your organization, you might enjoy one of my favorite Ted.com clips. It is a mere three minutes in length. In this clip, Derek Sivers talks about how to start a movement. Here is his simple, but powerful outline for leaders, and the underrated followers on how to start a movement:

  1. Leaders need the guts to stand out, not fearing ridicule.
  2. Leaders need to embrace the first follower as an equal. It’s about the movement, not the leader.
    1. The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership.
    2. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.
  3. The second follower makes three, that’s a crowd. A movement must be public.
  4. New followers emulate other followers, not the leader.
  5. More join, building momentum, you reach the tipping point. Now you have a movement.
    1. As more join, it’s less risky. There’s no reason not to join. They’ll be in the in-crowd, if they hurry. Ridiculed for not joining.

Check out Sivers short video here.

At their first independent exhibit in 1874, 165 works were on display. Renoir sold his painting, La Loge for 450 francs (about $9,000 today). In 1990, Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette (right), sold for $78.1 million ($141.5 million in 2016 dollars).

Although at the time, many of the established Paris art scene were convinced that Renoir was a lone nut, his followers helped him build a movement that is nearly unprecedented in the history of art.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com.