Archive for March, 2011

Vision, Mission, Strategic Intent, Strategies, Tactics, Recommendations, Roadmap, Action Plan

 

Vision An aspirational statement of where the organisation desires to be in the future, the direction and ultimate goal of the organisation what it would achieve or accomplish in the future. The vision statement answers the question “Where do we want to go?”, and as such, is purposively directional.
Mission The core purpose and focus of the organisation, which normally remains unchanged within a strategic planning period, whereas strategies and tactics may be altered more often to adapt to the changing circumstances. A mission is different from a vision in that the former is the cause and the latter is the effect; a mission is something to be accomplished whereas a vision is something to be pursued for that accomplishment.
Strategic Intent The critical drivers for the organisation, what the organisation must do (now) in order to achieve its vision and mission. A clarification of vision with specifics for realisation. Strategic intent has a sense of direction, a sense of discovery and a sense of destiny associated with it.
Strategies Strategy is the planning and marshalling of resources for their most efficient and effective use to create a desired future, such as achieving a goal or solution to a problem. Strategies are the statements of individual strategy to be pursued. Also described as (or in terms of) Objectives. Each of the strategies / objectives must satisfy the SMART criteria, in that they must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Various strategies may constitute a “strategic enabler” for a particular strategic intent.
Tactics The specific sets of actions in a scheduled sequence (typically in the near term) to accomplish a strategy. More generally, the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end (such as the objective of a strategy).
Recommendations Statements of the appropriate course of action to be taken with respect to a subject.
Roadmap The Roadmap identifies specific strategies and tactics (such as specific technology solutions) in a sequenced arrangement (plan) to achieve organisational goals, taking into consideration dependencies and other factors influencing achievement of ends. The Roadmap constitutes a framework assisting in coordinating future work and development, as well as communicating such work with involved parties.
Action Plan The (communication) document which outlines all the elements of strategic planning for an organisation into a single cohesive plan, defining required action to achieve organisational goals.

No Comments

Over-estimation, Under-estimation

There’s a saying in the technology industry: People tend to overestimate what will happen two years from now and underestimate what will happen in 10.

No Comments

The Future of Computing (Now) – Social Networking

Social Networking is Facebook, right?

Well, not quite.
It is a lot more than teenagers posting updates on Facebook.
It is definitely about business – and the general public – now.
A recent commentary (http://www.web-hosting-newsletter.com/2011/05/06/surprise-social-media-actually-delivers-real-value/, as at May 2011) stated:
“With the dramatic rise in use of social media, entrepreneurs were decidedly placing themselves in one of two camps: those who saw NO potential value in social media and those who jumped on the bandwagon without a clue to where the train was heading. Game Over. Now, after a lot of experimentation and evaluation by experts and novices alike, it seems there are some real opportunities in social media for businesses of all sizes.”

Social networking is about instant communication, within an extended social setting (rather obviously). It is about stating “Your Message” – directly and instantly, to a wide group of people, rather than through some intermediary.

Historically, the intermediary is a publisher of some sort, some business which determines what is published to the wider community and what is not.

Communities

Now, one has the opportunity to build one’s own community of like minds – as large or as small as one desires (it should be noted that social networking does NOT mean that one automatically gets a “free” community. Building a community requires effort and work. If one desires a large community, one must expend substantial effort to obtain that community. The point about modern social networking is that it is possible to build such a large community with less capital outlay than was ever required previously – making the ability to reach such large communities within the hands of every individual – provided they so desire and make the requisite effort.

In many ways, this is similar to the advances in music production bought about by the digital age. Today, everyone has the capacity to produce high quality music. Not everyone does so, though, nor, for those that do, they are heard. Why not? Because (1) most people are just not interested in producing music (they would rather just listen to it); (2) many people, even though they may be technically capable of operating music studio production software, do not have the requisite talent, experience nor application to produce anything of general worth; (3) many people can and do produce excellent music, yet few hear it – simply because the steps associated with making this music available to a wider audience are not taken; and (4) even if some-one makes their music available, many will not hear it, due to the glut of content available, meaning that distribution and marketing take precedence in terms of music awareness – which returns us to the issue of social networking – another means of making a wider community aware of one’s content).

Social Networking Facilities

Facebook not the first

Most might consider that social networking began with the advent of Facebook in September 2006. Although Facebook would no doubt classify as the largest “social networking” site existing currently (as at 2011, with more than 500 million users world-wide), it was not the first such entity (indeed, Friendster (started in 2002 http://www.friendster.com/ – now concentrating on social gaming) and MySpace (started in July 2003 http://www.myspace.com/ – now concentrating on music and bands) pre-dated Facebook and were much more successful early on but were soon eclipsed by their successors) and is certainly not alone in terms of providing social networking facilities (other examples include Bebo (formed in 2005 http://www.bebo.com/). Indeed, many web-based / cloud computing based applications offer collaboration / social networking capabilities as either core or adjuncts to their offerings. It appears that if a product is not “socially”-enabled then it will not sell.

Blogging

Early examples of social networking were Blogging – a “en-verbened” and shortened form of the phrase “web-log” – a facility whereby one maintained a log of events / occurences / thoughts / ideas / writings / anything of interest – on the web (as a series of web pages). Specific software to allow people to create (post) and display their blog entries were soon created, with an early contender being Blogger (http://www.blogger.com – founded in August 1999, now a Google property, and also known as Blogspot), soon followed by other major blogging platforms (WordPress in 2003 http://wordpress.org; Typepad on 6 August 2003 http://www.typepad.com/; Movable Type in 2001 http://movabletype.com/; and Live Journal in 1999 http://www.livejournal.com/).

Micro-blogging

Blogging was followed by micro-blogging – the best known example being Twitter (http://www.twitter.com, formed in 2006 / 2007). The concept of a micro-blog is to keep the entry down to a minimum – in the case of Twitter, to 140 characters – the size of a SMS (Short Message Service) message from telephony minus 20 characters to allow for special addressing etc, such that a micro-blog entry could be made from a mobile phone. Twitter is not the only major micro-blogging platform (others include Status Net (formed in July 2005 http://status.net) and its public face, called identi.ca (http://identi.ca/); and Plurk (formed in January 2008 http://www.plurk.com)). Other products exhibit micro-blogging qualities, through their status update capabilities (such as in Facebook, but also, for instance, Google Buzz, announced on 9 February 2010, which integrates with most Google products as well as a range of external offerings).

Mini-blogs

And not to be left out, there is also the concept of mini-blogs – a cross between a full blog and a micro-blog, combining the ease and immediacy of micro-blogging with the extended entry capacity of blogging (longer text, photo’s, video’s, etc). The major examples in the mini-blogging niche include Tumblr (formed in 2007 http://www.tumblr.com); and Posterous (formed in July 2008 https://posterous.com/).

Secondary Support Applications

The success of the various blogging / micro-blogging / mini-blogging platforms has led to the creation of a vibrant secondary support industry of individuals and organisations writing applications which integrate and work with the major products. As an example, there are a range of products which allow one to view all the “streams” of information to which one subscribes – one’s Facebook stream; one’s Twitter stream; one’s blogging news feed and other such sites. Such products include Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com); TweetDeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/); Stroodle (http://www.stroodle.it/) and the Ubermedia apps (http://ubermedia.com).

People and Place

Social networking is not only about connecting people, but also about connecting people and place (see http://biznik.com/articles/location-aware-social-networking-sites-the-next-wave-of-relationship-marketing). Location based social networking is enabled by smart-phones with both GPS and 3G/4G internet capabilities – people are always connected, no matter where they are.

Possibly the most pre-eminent site in this category is FourSquare (http://foursquare.com), allowing people to check-in to places and comment on what they are doing there, or what they experience (say, comment on a restaurant, or service from a shop, or being at a concert, etc). Google has a similar product called Google Latitude (http://www.google.com/latitude). Other examples include Gowalla (http://gowalla.com/), specifically targeted at travel and exploration; and Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/), which bills itself as “the fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses”. Indeed, even Facebook is now in on the act, with its Facebook Places (http://www.facebook.com/places/).

Video

Finally, don’t forget that social media is not just text – it is all types of media, most notably video. YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/) is the most famous – or possibly, infamous – of the video sharing sites, which not only allows anyone to upload video, but for others to comment on and share videos. The measure of popularity of an event or item can be measured by the number of Youtube “views” that a video will receive. Another well used video sharing site is Vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com/), similar in concept to Youtube (allowing uploading and sharing of videos), but possibly more oriented towards information sharing, particularly in a business context. It headlines itself as: “Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make. We provide the best tools and highest quality video in the universe.”, indicating its focus on a defined community, as opposed to the “free-for-all” which could characterise YouTube.

These types of social networking are not in isolation from each other any longer. People share their Youtube videos using Facebook. They receive their entertainment (TV shows, viral video clips, information and infotainment) through Youtube, which they then share with their friends. Breaking news is now Twitter and Facebook and Youtube – the news is witnessed by, photographed or video’ed by people, on the spot, using their mobile phones, immediately uploaded and instantly available world-wide.

Another type of multi-media based social networking tool is Skype (http://www.skype.com), allowing individuals and groups to make voice and video calls across the internet, integrated with a set of contacts.

Social Networking and Business

Social networking is not limited to individuals or personal matters. As mentioned above, and throughout this article, social networking is increasingly being used as a business tool (eg for marketing purposes) and within businesses themselves. To provide a more “serious” description of social networking for business use, it is also known as “Enterprise Social Software”. From a business perspective: “Social media at its core is all about having a dialogue with your customers – it’s about people investment.” – Blake Cahill (Principle at Banyan Branch, quoted from http://blog.ning.com/2011/02/ning-at-social-media-week-trends-and-the-future-of-social-media.html).

Blogging and wiki capabilities for business are provided by a wide variety of systems, commercial and open source – which can be installed and operated in-house or using a software-as-a-service model. Systems such as WordPress, Typepad etc can be used in this manner. Micro-blogging facilities are available from a number of sources, such as StatusNet and Yammer (formed in September 2008 https://www.yammer.com/) which is billed as a “free private social network for your company”.

Social Networking for Professionals

And there are specific social networking sites just for professionals. The largest is LinkedIn (formed in May 2003 http://www.linkedin.com/) is where “Over 100 million professionals … exchange information, ideas and opportunities” (according to its website). XING (formed in August 2003 http://www.xing.com/) also bills itself as a professional business network. Both these sites are about making connections between professionals, particularly with respect to job hunting and career development, but also in terms of maintaining contact with one’s network.

And the final site is a hybrid business / individual social networking site, specifically for maintaining an address book, called Plaxo (http://www.plaxo.com).

Social Networking and Applications

As mentioned above, many products with other tasks / functions at their core are increasingly adding collaboration and social networking / media capabilities to their offerings, since, even if not an integral component of the functionality of the product, these facilities must be provided for the product to sell. Prominent examples in the area include the myriad of project and task management products available, as well as CRM, DMS, CMS and other such suites.

Social Networking is Mainstream

As evidence of the rise of social networking, Facebook has become so ubiquitous that mainstream companies, who have nothing specific to do with ICT, are creating Facebook accounts and pages, displaying their details in their advertising – such as on business cards,in print ads and on TV. Car companies, banks, insurance companies (and increasingly, everyone else) are now using Facebook as their consumer entry “page”. One’s local car yard, one’s local plumber all have Facebook pages.

Social Networking – Today and in the Future

What is social networking and social media being used for today (and in the future)?

Some elements include:

  1. one-to-one conversation;
  2. one-to-intimate group “conversation” / “discussion” / “information dissemination”;
  3. event- notification, organisation, attendance;
  4. location based notifications, and recommendations etc;
  5. marketing, advertising and selling;
  6. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) enablement;
  7. disseminating materials, such as brochuresm eBooks, etc;
  8. photo albums and video collections;
  9. match-making;
  10. emergency management – notifying communities and constituents during flood, fire and earthquake, etc;
  11. political advertising and commentary;
  12. political activism – dissent (and assent, if you will);
  13. automatic updating of location and connectivity, incorporating geo-mobile technologies and “internet of things” technologies;
  14. automatic understanding of one’s environment (facial recognition, for instance) and context (through natural language processing);
  15. greater decentralisation – many elements of social networking will inter-operate;
  16. search engines will embrace all social networking interactions;
  17. content aggregation (introducing a new element of electronic intermediation) will work towards sifting, analysing and presenting the mass of online data from a wide variety of sources (including all social media sources) into a useable form for the individual (and businesses);
  18. greater use of analytics – particularly big data and deep analytics, sifting through the massive amount of data generated by social networking tools and systems, to identify patterns and understand what is happening, or what is relevant to one’s area of interest (business or otherwise);
  19. social rating – of sites, of products, of places and of experiences – will assume a marketing prominence;
  20. universal identities – the same identity used on all social networks (most likely integrated with security a la OpenID):
  21. a single social graph, integrating not only “standard” social network sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn but also all of email, Skype, IM etc;
  22. more platform facilities and uses, for applications, games etc within a social networking site (such as the Facebook Platform);
  23. greater integration with mainstream business applications – packages and custom built systems. Email, database management systems, document management systems, content management systems, and many others will integrate collaboration and social networking cabailities.

No Comments

The Seven Surprises for New CEOs

 

The Seven Surprises for New CEOs were described first in the HBR of October 2004 in an article by Michael Porter, Jay Lorsch and Nitin Nohria on CEO leadership.

As a newly minted CEO, one may think to finally have the power to set strategy, the authority to make things happen, and full access to the finer points of your business. But if one expects the job to be as simple as that, you’re in for an awakening.  Even though you bear full responsibility for your company’s well-being, you are a few steps removed from many of the factors that drive results.  You have more power than anybody else in the corporation, but you need to use it with extreme caution.

Porter et al have discovered that nothing—not even running a large business within the company—fully prepares a person to be the chief executive.

The following seven surprises are most common for new CEOs:

  1. You can’t run the company (The sheer volume and intensity of external demands take many by surprise.  Almost every new CEO struggles to manage the time drain of attending to shareholders, analysts, board members, industry groups, politicians, and other constituencies);
  2. Giving orders is very costly (No proposal should reach the CEO for final approval unless he can ratify it with enthusiasm.  Before then, everyone involved with the matter should have raised and resolved any potential deal breakers, bringing the CEO into the discussion only at strategically significant moments to obtain feedback and support);
  3. It is hard to know what is really going on (Certainly, CEOs are flooded with information, but reliable information is surprisingly scarce.  All information coming to the top is filtered, sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with not such good intentions);
  4. You are always sending a message (A CEOs words and deeds, however small or off-the-cuff, are instantly spread and amplified, scrutinized, interpreted and sometimes drastically misinterpreted);
  5. You are not the boss (Although the CEO may sit at the top of the management hierarchy, s/he still reports to the board of directors.  At the end of the day, the board—not the CEO—is in charge);
  6. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal (CEOs must recognize that, ultimately, it is only long-term value creation that matters, not today’s growth expectations or even the stock price);
  7. You are still only human (CEO Should recognize s/he needs connections to the world outside the organization, at home and in the community, to avoid being consumed by corporate life).

These seven surprises for new CEOs carry some important lessons:

  • First, as a new CEO you must learn to manage organizational context rather than focus on daily operations;
  • Second, you must recognize that your position does not confer the right to lead, nor does it guarantee the loyalty of the organization;
  • Finally, you must remember that you are subject to a host of limitations, even though others might treat you as omnipotent.

 


 

This article re-worked from the original at http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_porter_seven_surprises_new_ceos.html.

No Comments

Pascale and Athos 7S Model

Strategy  

Structure

Systems

Staff

Style

Skills

Shared Values

 



 

The McKinsey consultants Anthony Athos, Richard Pascale, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman developed the 7S model as an analytical framework in the late 1970s when they researched organisational effectiveness.    The consultants developed a 360 degree model by linking strategy with organisational effectiveness.

7S Model Diagram

The 7S model consists of seven factors:

1. STRATEGY:
The integrated vision and direction of the company as well as the manner in which it communicates and implements that vision and direction.
2. STRUCTURE:
The form of the organisational chart and interconnections between positions in the organisational hierarchy.
3. SYSTEMS:
The procedures and routine processes required to perform the work, including the ways information moves through the organisation.
4. STAFF:
The personnel categories within the organisation, e.g. marketeers, engineers.
5. STYLE:
The characterisation of the ways key managers set priorities and behave in order to achieve the organisation’s goals.
6. SKILLS:
The distinctive capabilities of the organisation as a whole.
7. SHARED VALUES:
The core beliefs underlying the organisation’s existence and its expectations of its members.  Values act as an organisation’s conscience and provide guidance in times of crisis.

The original intention of the model was to help guide thinking about organisational effectiveness in the broadest sense.  The 7-S model turned out to be an excellent tool for judging an organisation’s ability to implement a given strategy.

To be effective, an organisation must have a high degree of internal alignment among all seven Ss.  Each S must be consistent with the other factors for them to reinforce one another.    With the exception of the skills factor, all Ss are interrelated and a change in one affects all others.

Certain key factors such as staff, strategy, structure and systems can be changed in the short term.  The three remaining Ss — style, skills and shared values — are delayed factors that can only be affected long term.   Skills are both hard and soft.   Peters pointed out that true competitive advantage originates from these soft factors.

The model can be used as both a static checklist for analysis purposes and a tool to assess potential conflicts when a strategic program is implemented.

The original source for the 7S model is the book:

The Art of Japanese Management,
R. T. Pascale and A. G. Athos,
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1981
http://www.amazon.com/Art-Japanese-Management-Business-Library/dp/0140091157/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226384146&sr=8-1
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New Ed edition (1986)
ISBN-10: 0140091157
ISBN-13: 978-0140091151
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/smj.4250030413/abstract
The consultants developed a 360 degree model by linking strategy with organisational effectiveness

No Comments

The Future of Computing (Now) – Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

In simple terms, cloud computing builds on the foundations of virtualised resources (compute resources, storage resources, network resources), providing an additional level of configuration and control across multiple virtual environments, as well as the capability of implementing “self service” facilities.

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of:

  1. five essential characteristics:
    1. On-demand self-service;
    2. Broad network access;
    3. Resource pooling;
    4. Rapid elasticity;
    5. Measured Service;
  2. three service models:
    1. Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS);
    2. Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS);
    3. Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); and,
  3. four deployment models:
    1. Private cloud;
    2. Community cloud;
    3. Public cloud;
    4. Hybrid cloud.

Key enabling technologies include:

  1. fast wide-area networks;
  2. powerful, inexpensive server computers; and
  3. high-performance virtualization for commodity hardware.”

(Source: NIST)

“Cloud computing is a category of computing solutions in which a technology and/or service lets users access computing resources on demand, as needed, whether the resources are physical or virtual, dedicated, or shared, and no matter how they are accessed (via a direct connection, LAN, WAN, or the Internet). The cloud is often characterized by self-service interfaces that let customers acquire resources when needed as long as needed. Cloud is also the concept behind an approach to building IT services that takes advantage of the growing power of servers and virtualization technologies.”  (Source: IBM)

Cloud Computing is now one of the “hot topics” in ICT.  Almost all major vendors have some semblance of a cloud computing offering, however that may be defined (since, as with most “hot topics”, vendors and others define an amorphous term such as cloud computing in a manner which best suits their interests).

Other terminology is sometimes used in conjunction with (and sometimes, erroneously, synonymous with) cloud computing.  The terms SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) can all be considered as sub-variants of the more generic term “cloud computing”.  The diagram in this IBM introductory material further elucidates these differences.

 

Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds

“In general, a public (external) cloud is an environment that exists outside a company’s firewall. It can be a service offered by a third-party vendor. It could also be referred to as a shared or multi-tenanted, virtualized infrastructure managed by means of a self-service portal.

A private (internal) cloud reproduces the delivery models of a public cloud and does so behind a firewall for the exclusive benefit of an organization and its customers. The self-service management interface is still in place while the IT infrastructure resources being collected are internal.

In a hybrid cloud environment, external services are leveraged to extend or supplement an internal cloud.”  (Source: IBM)

Diagrammatically, the three (3) types of cloud computing offerings can be depicted as:

Cloud Computing Types

(Source: Sam Johnston)

Private Clouds

“Private clouds presents (sic) a shift from a model where everything is customized to one of standardization. Management in such an environment is no longer about avoiding change but instead embracing it to facilitate IT’s twin goals: delivering on the needs of the business and managing the underlying resources in the most efficient way possible.

The move to private cloud represents an industrial revolution for IT, applying industrial manufacturing techniques to the provisioning of IT services, gaining standardization and automation.

Standardization is central to achieving much greater operational efficiency.  Private clouds not only facilitate standardization but dramatically increase the returns on standardization. Deploying standard infrastructure from a templatized catalog of applications is orders of magnitude faster and easier than building each application from scratch. Similar gains are available from centralizing and standardizing high availability, network management, and security.

To take advantage of the cloud, there needs to be a clear separation of the production versus consumption layer. In the cloud, the consumer (the business) has no idea – and importantly, little interest in or concern with – what hardware platform and management tools are being used to deliver services.”  (Source: VMWare)

It should be noted that some commentators (for instance, Sam Johnston in his “Random rants about tech stuff (cloud computing, intellectual property, security, etc.)“) suggest that Private Clouds are a neologism to justify various vendors offerings in competition to the “pure” Public Cloud model.  Nevertheless, even these commentators acknowledge that Private (and Hybrid) Clouds are likely to be used into the immediate future as organisations come to grips with a new way of providing computing facilities.

 

What Should Run in the Cloud?

Since the “cloud” can effectively implement any computing environment (operating systems, etc), then basically anything could be run in the cloud.  As with most things in life, just because it is possible does not necessarily make it either desirable or useful (or even usable).

Typically, highly interactive applications may best operate using a desktop or workstation environment (such as high end graphics manipulation, high end development IDEs, etc).  But the boundaries between a pure cloud environment and a pure desktop environment (and, now, even a pure mobile environment) are becoming increasingly blurred.  In many instances, what were previously only desktop applications now are connected to cloud facilities, typically for storage of data, but also for additional processing capabilities (for instance, to render complex images using the additional compute resources available in cloud facilities).  In the same manner, mobile applications will store (synchronise) data using a cloud facility, thereby allowing a single view of one’s data whether using a web based interface (into the cloud), a mobile device interface (ie on a smartphone) or a desktop interface (ie a MS Windows application).

In addition, applications with extremely sensitive security profiles would most likely not be run in a public cloud or hybrid environment (although could readily be conceived as operating in a secure private cloud environment).

Everything else is amenable to cloud based operation.

 

How big is Cloud Computing?

An interesting infographic from the Wikibon site and its blog provides an insight into the current and projected size of cloud computing, including the economics of why cloud computing is here to stay …

How Big is the World of Cloud Computing?
Via: Wikibon

No Comments

Persuasion and Influence

Another excellent article from the PsyBlog, a site which you should really bookmark and read, read, read (you can receive emails as well – makes it far too easy to keep up to date with the latest of interest). This time the article is about the mechanisms of persuasion or influence – particularly relevant in organisational settings, and those where one may not be wielding the ultimate power within the organisation (which is pretty much always with respect to ICT). Find the article here, but, with kind regards, it is reproduced below.


3 Universal Goals to Influence People

Post image for 3 Universal Goals to Influence People

Central to the art and science of persuasion is understanding three goals for which everyone is aiming.

The art and science of persuasion is often discussed as though changing people’s minds is about using the right arguments, the right tone of voice or the right negotiation tactic. But effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations.

In the scrabble to explain technique, it’s easy to forget that there are certain universal goals of which, at least some of the time, we are barely aware. Influence and persuasion attempts must tap into these to really gain traction.

Techniques of persuasion

To illustrate these universal goals, let’s have a look at six common techniques of influence that you’ll have come across either explicitly or implicitly (from Cialdini, 2001):

  1. Liking: It’s much easier to influence someone who likes you. Successful influencers try to flatter and uncover similarities in order to build attraction.
  2. Social proof. People like to follow one another, so influencers imply the herd is moving the same way.
  3. Consistency. Most people prefer to keep their word. If people make a commitment, particularly if it’s out loud or in writing, they are much more likely to keep it. Influencers should try to gain verbal or written commitments.
  4. Scarcity. Even when companies have warehouses full of a product, they still advertise using time-limited offers that emphasise scarcity. People want what they can’t have, or at least what might be running short.
  5. Authority. People are strongly influenced by experts. Successful influencers flaunt their knowledge to establish their expertise.
  6. Reciprocity. Give something to get something. When people feel indebted to you they are more likely to agree to what you want. This feeling could arise from something as simple as a compliment.

There are many more, but these six are often quoted, especially in business circles. The reason these work is that they tap into three basic human goals, and it’s these goals that are the key to understanding how to influence and persuade people (from Cialdini and Goldstein, 2004).

1. Goal of affiliation

In the most part humans are social so they want to be liked. Rejection is no fun and we’ll do almost anything to avoid it.

We reciprocate because it sends a message about our sociability. We try to elicit liking from other people by behaving in ways we guess will be attractive, like agreeing with them or complimenting them.

Not only do we want approval from specific people, we also want it from society at large (see this article on conformity). We want the things we do, think and believe to be broadly in line with what others do, think and believe. It’s not impossible to be different, but it is difficult.

The techniques of liking and reciprocity mentioned above both clearly play on our desire for affiliation, as do many other techniques of persuasion and influence. Most people are joiners and followers so influencers like to give us something to join and someone to follow.

2. Goal of accuracy

People who don’t care about doing things correctly never get anywhere in life. To achieve our goals in what is a complicated world, we have to be continually trying to work out the best course of action.

It could be accuracy in social situations, such as how to deal with the boss or how to make friends, or it could be accuracy in financial matters like how to get a good deal, or it could be accuracy in existential matters. Whatever the arena, people are always striving for the ‘right’ answer.

Influencers understand our need to be right and so they try to offer things that appeal to our need for accuracy. For example, experts or authority figures influence people heavily because they offer us a ‘correct’ view or way of doing things, especially one that we don’t have to think too carefully about.

The techniques of social proof and scarcity both nag at our desire to be accurate because we assume other people are likely to be right and we don’t want to miss out on a bargain.

3. Goal of maintaining positive self-concept

People want to protect their view of themselves because it takes a long time to build up a semi-coherent view of oneself and one’s place in the world.

We work hard to keep our world-views intact: we want to maintain our self-esteem, to continue believing in the things we believe in and to honour whatever commitments we have espoused in the past. In an inconsistent world we at least should be self-consistent.

Persuaders and influencers can leverage this goal by invoking our sense of self-consistency. A trivial but instructive example is the foot-in-the-door technique. This is where an influencer asks you to agree to a small request before asking for a bigger one. Because people feel somehow that it would be inconsistent to agree to one request and then refuse the next one, they want to say yes again.

People will go to surprising lengths to maintain their positive view of themselves.

Unconscious motivators

Everybody wants to be accurate, to affiliate with others and to maintain their concept of themselves, however little awareness we might have of these goals. Effective persuasion and influence attempts can target one or more of these goals.

With these goals in mind it is possible to tailor persuasion attempts to the particular characteristics of an audience, rather than relying on transparent generic techniques. Whether it’s at work, dealing with your boss, or at home negotiating with a neighbour, we can all benefit from thinking about other people’s unconscious motivators. Then we can work out how to align our message with their goals.

Image credit: ATIS547

How to Be Creative

No Comments