Category Archives: culture change

How Does a Group Change What You Think?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

How is it that so many people started saying “Awesome!”, or started wearing Uggs?

These are examples of how individuals’ behavior is shaped by what people around them consider appropriate, correct or desirable. Researchers are investigating how human behavioral norms are established in groups and how they evolve over time, in hopes of learning how to exert more influence when it comes to promoting health, marketing products or reducing prejudice.

Have you observed how behavioral norms are established in your chapter? If your chapter needed to make a serious change (e.g. reforming a questionable practice during candidate education) what members would you need on board to shift what is considered acceptable by the others?

Here’s another excerpt on the power of leaders to shape the culture of an organization:

Group leaders, however, help perpetuate or shift the norm. Unlike innovators, leaders tend to be high-status “superconformists,” embodying the group’s most-typical characteristics or aspirations, says Deborah Prentice, a social psychologist at Princeton University. People inside and outside the group tend to infer the group’s norms by examining these leaders’ behaviors.

As the oft-repeated phrase goes, the fastest way to change the culture of a chapter is the behavior of the leadership. With such influence over the accepted norms of behavior, leaders must be the paragon of conduct at all times.

The story then offers a word of caution on observing the behavior of others:

The researchers found students often overestimated how much others drank. The amount students reported drinking was closely related to their beliefs about how much others drank: Students who thought others drank more tended to report drinking more.

What do you think? Are leaders merely products of their group or do they possess the potential to change a group for the better?

The full story is worth a read.

What if “Sigma Nu” Became a Genericized Trademark?

What do kleenex, frisbee, thermos, zipper, yo-yo, band-aid and xerox have in common? They’re all “genericized” trademarks:

A trademark typically becomes “genericized” when the products or services with which it is associated have acquired substantial market dominance or mind share such that the primary meaning of the genericized trademark becomes the product or service itself rather than an indication of source for the product or service to such an extent that the public thinks the trademark is the generic name of the product or service.

So, when your nose is running you ask for a kleenex, not a paper face napkin.

When you want to toss a flying plastic disc around with your friends you reach for a frisbee.

When you need to duplicate of a sheet of paper you make a xerox, and so on.

What if Sigma Nu became a genericized trademark to describe the ideal men’s college fraternity? What’s holding your chapter back from achieving this sort of dominant market share on your campus?

On a broader level, what’s holding Sigma Nu back from earning genericized trademark status as the fraternity? Is there any reason this might be a bad thing?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

UPDATE: The New Yorker magazine on “xeroxing a xerox.”

Masters Weekend

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This year’s Masters tournament may go down as one of the best if not one of the most interesting. The storylines alone were prime fraternity house gossip topics. The superstar who fell from grace and was trying to reclaim his rightful place at the top; the young-guns storming up the leaderboard before the weekend; the Aussies attempting to make history late Sunday; and of course the former champion from Argentina looking for a second jacket as his playing partner self-destructed. There are tons of lessons we can draw from the tournament but I’ll focus on three in particular here.

The first is that competition is always good. Sunday was fun to watch for several reasons but the biggest one was that there were so many excellent competitors. I hear from chapters now and then that they don’t want another fraternity on campus because they’ll essentially make it harder to be good. That’s a cop out. What makes winning so thrilling and rewarding is not only how much work you’ve done but also the competition you faced.

The second lesson is that when things get tough be prepared for it to only get tougher. Nothing is easy in this world, whether it be achieving career success or winning a Rock Chapter award. We watched as Rory McIlroy quickly self-destructed when just that morning he was holding the lead by four strokes with steady play the previous three days. This isn’t to bash on McIlroy (he lost the Master’s at 21, I’d say he’s a step ahead of many people in his age group) but to show that you can’t let a stumble turn into a nose-diving crash. Suck it up and push forward. To McIlroy’s credit we never saw him quit. He never said “Well I’ve lost this year, I should probably stop now and just hang out with Jim Nantz for the rest of the day.” Is your chapter on a Plan of Action? Is your chapter in debt? Did your chapter not get the grades it expected? Suck it up and push forward. The Masters wasn’t the nail in the coffin of McIlroy’s career; don’t let one mistake completely derail your chapter’s success.


The last lesson to touch upon is of course that it’s not over until it’s over. You don’t get to put on the green jacket until you’ve walked off the 18th hole. Your chapter won’t be awarded a Rock Chapter award until it’s firmly in your hands. Sometimes chapters begin working on their Pursuit of Excellence submission in mid-March. There’s still a month and a half left! That’s plenty of time to still put together an event or hold some more LEAD sessions. Fall rush week ended? Well take another week or a couple of extra days to keep recruiting. This is not to say that you shouldn’t plan ahead of time using the resources offered, but don’t throw in the towel so early.

As I said from the start, this past weekend’s Masters tournament was full of storylines. What will your chapter’s storyline be? The Rock Chapter that redefined Excellence? The under-dog who crept up out of nowhere and stole the spotlight? You’re the author of your Fraternity experience and only you will determine whether it’s an epic tale or a children’s book.

Failure is Not an Option

Alright newly elected officers, here’s some homework to start you off for Christmas Break. Watch the video above. Watch it a second time even. It gives you chills doesn’t it? Now there should be four things that jump out at you that you’re going to take away and use as a leader for your term. Didn’t catch them? Here they are in case you missed ’em:

1)      We sent a human being to a place where humanity cannot survive. Allow me to clarify that statement. College educated men and women sent a human being to the Moon, an inhospitable location, and brought him back alive EVERY time. NASA of this time frame was very different from the NASA of today. In fact it was very similar to your chapter. These guys were young, eager, and ambitious. No goal was too far off to reach. That’s how your chapter needs to think. Now of course they didn’t just throw something together to achieve this but they did think of new and ambitious ideas that had never been thought of before.

2)      Look two steps ahead. In the clip the two prevailing issues are oxygen supply and battery life. The first doesn’t matter unless the second is solved. Same thing goes for many things in chapter operations. Academics won’t be improved until we start by improving the quality of men we recruit.

3)      A leader listens. Notice how Ed Harris’ character didn’t start talking over everyone’s ideas in the clip. He also listens to his experts and empowers them by providing them with the power of decision making. In other words, avoid micromanagement. Don’t try and run your chapter’s LEAD program but empower your LEAD Chairman to do his job and make his own decision.

4)      Failure is never an option. This could be a reiteration of number 1 but we need to focus more attention on the potential doubters in your chapter. Those people exist but as a chapter we need to continuously agree that in any aspect failure is not an option. Eliminating hazing may be hard in a chapter that is 95% for it but failure is not an option. This applies especially to chapters currently struggling with finances, member accountability, or risk reduction issues. Failure is not an option. Success is the only option.

What Drives a Culture Change?

After a series of embarrassing events this semester, Duke University president asked students in this letter to join him in starting a culture change.

Here’s my favorite part:

Duke’s best tradition is that it’s not stuck in traditions.

Tradition is great; blind devotion to any and all traditions is not so great.  Arbitrary traditions that result in boorish behavior and damage an institution’s reputation deserve to be questioned.