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Influence, Part I

Posted on April 5, 2017
Influencing Others — New Car

Last week, I attended the 2017 Philly Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Symposium, themed "Ignite Your Influence." It was a great day, full of information and networking, but it was the keynote speaker, Jonah Berger, a Wharton professor and best-selling author, whose message resonated most for me.

It may have something to do the fact I just put together a webinar, "The Art and Science of Influencing Others", to be aired later this month.

Berger’s address, "Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior," named after his best-selling book of the same name (Simon & Schuster, 2016) was captivating. He argued that influence is always out there, but that we don’t always see sense it. He claimed that 99.9% of all of our decisions are influenced by others—a staggering statistic, but, if you think about it, one that is likely true.

We are influenced to either imitate or differentiate, he said, supporting the notion with some incredibly illustrative examples. We often imitate because we need to conform to rules of the group, a concept he called "Monkey See, Monkey Do." Berger argues this happens in every meeting; we use others as a signal, we don’t want to say something different, and then we change our response. Therefore, Berger argues, if you "want to persuade people, then be the first to talk.”

Although we are always trying to conform to the group, there are instances where we also have a desire to be unique and to set ourselves apart from the crowd. Berger's example: you just bought a new car, it still has the new car smell, you’re excited, and you show your friend. Within a few days, your friend calls to tell you she also bought a car. You’re excited for her until she tells you she bought the exact same car as you: same make, model, and even the same color. Now, you're ticked!

Look for part II next week.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director, Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Posted in leadership-management-skills