I want to make a point about changing the world, but first we need to talk about the horse head.
For Christmas last year I bought my brother a horse head and, while I was at it, picked one up for the office. It felt like the kind of thing that Mozilla Toronto would enjoy.
â€” J Nightingale (@johnath) December 17, 2012
Between meetings we needed a place to store it; the sad, flat way it sort of collapsed when left on a desk was unsatisfying. So Madhava and I went out in search of a head on which to mount it. Steps from our office is a mannequin supply store, which helped.
â€” madhava (@madhava) January 22, 2013
I put the horse head on its styrofoam mount and, for giggles, set it up in the window. Facing outwards. Staring at the office in the next building.
The other office responded.
They taped a note to the glass.
“What’s with the horse?”
“Who you callin’ a horse?”
“Why you, of course!”
â€” Andrew Overholt (@overholt) February 15, 2013
And so it went. Back and forth.
Stick with me, I’m getting to the world changing.
So last week we bought them their own horse head. And yesterday mconley delivered it to their office. They invited him in. They brought the box over to the window where we could see. They gathered around their window and we gathered around ours. And when they opened it and realised what it was they actually jumped up and down, and applauded, and mouthed “thank you” through the window at us.
In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam’s utterly definitive work on society and community, he writes that the best predictor of a school’s success is the activity of its PTA, and that the activity level of a PTA can be changed dramatically by one or two committed parents. Derek Sivers’ TED talk is all about the powerful change that happens when one person being silly becomes two people being silly, and cognitive scientists have been talking about the power of allies for 50 years.
The horse head(s) didn’t change the world; I’m not that pompous. But changing the world is hard work and it’s worth getting some practice in. So go start something. And, this is crucial, if you see someone else starting something: play along. Maybe the thing you’re playing with draws a great big crowd and changes the world. Maybe it never amounts to more than an office of strangers 50ft away silently jumping up and down and saying thanks.
It’s not such a terrible downside.
UPDATE: The world keeps getting more awesome. Denise from the other office just sent me email saying that the 4th floor office in our building saw their “best day ever” sign, and posted a reply. They don’t even know about the horses. They just wanted to share in the happy.