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Meaning of “Catalyst”

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What does “Catalyst” mean?

  1. A substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible (Merriam-Webster).
  2. An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action (Merriam-Webster).
  3. Catalysts work by changing the activation energy for a reaction, i.e., the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur. This is accomplished by providing a new mechanism or reaction path through which the reaction can proceed. When the new reaction path has a lower activation energy, the reaction rate is increased and the reaction is said to be catalyzed (reference.com).
  4. Any substance serving as the agent in catalysis (yourdictionary.com).
  5. A person or thing acting as the stimulus in bringing about or hastening a result (yourdictionary.com).

When does something or someone serve as a catalyst?

Based on these definitions, someone or something serves as a catalyst when they/it:

  • Provokes
  • Speeds up, or
  • Stimulates an action, reaction, or change.

How does this understanding impact the spread of ideas?

I just love the 3rd definition that talks about changing the activation energy, the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur.  Think about any change you would like to see in your home, organization, or community … what do you think is the minimum energy needed for that change to occur?  Isn’t that a fabulous way to think to think about what “catalyst” is required to move an idea forward / to spread?

How does this impact the ability for people, organizations, and communities to change (aka have an impact)?

Some pre-thought about what will be required to insight action / change is required.  You can’t just “will” a change to occur.  You have to take action.  OK, so this isn’t a novel thought, but how much effort gets wasted without having thought about it in advance?  If we are better able to define the minimum energy required, then we can better target our efforts to spread ideas and be a catalyst for change.