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Influencer – review : interesting read and useful

Influencer: Kerry Patterson * joseph Grenny * David Maxfield* Ron McMillan * Al Switzler

As the title suggests the book takes a reader through a fascinating journey by authors as they meet seemingly insignificant, quiet but tenacious people, obviously ‘Influencers’ who solved world-sized problems in world-class ways. And they have moved beyond ‘Serenity Trap’ as per the well-known prayer: Every day you ask for the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The book begins with the promise that problems, challenges can be solved if one has the skill that enables people to act differently. The comprehensive search reveals that a small group of tenacious gurus has been able to achieve everything from eradicating diseases, hardened criminals and drug addicts eventually becoming productive citizens, eliminating gender discrimination to turning around the companies.

The authors share the case studies gathered during their trip from Bangkok to Boston. The book covers number of studies from varied background and geographical locations. Delancy Street Foundation founded by Dr.Mimi Silbert with remarkable influence strategy that profoundly changed lives of 14000 over 30 years where 90 percent never went back to drugs or crime. Also covers study on eradication of Guinea worm from West Asia and sub-Saharan areas by Dr. Donald Hopkins. HIV AIDS spread in Thailand around 1993 and how Dr.Wiwat successfully influenced sex workers to follow the plan and so on.

Not only such cases, The Influencers motivated authors to go beyond their procrastination and the result is the publication of the book!

Very early in the book the authors share the model for case studies and then revisit model to elaborate the process. By doing this each case study gets validation on first two domains: Motivation and Ability at the top which are then subdivided into Personal, Social & Structural. Pictorially depicted model also covers six sources of influence in twos columns namely: under Motivation – Make the undesirable desirable, Harness peer pressure, Design rewards and demand accountability and under Ability – Surpass your limits, Find strength in numbers and Change the environment. Each study captures one of the six. Along with detailed coverage of the case studies the authors validate significance of goals, feedback, and leadership development.

The pondering brings out current training practices followed for grooming of the leaders as rarely do business school and management faculties think of leadership as performance act. Faculty members typically teach leaders how to think, not how to act.

An interesting reference is to how top volleyball performers set process goals aimed at the set, the dig, the block, and so on as against mediocre performers’ goals for winning so many points or garnering applause. Better shooters set technique-oriented goals which enable minute detailing and visualization as against result-oriented goals set by not so good performers.

The ‘Influencer’ success stories cover a huge expanse and to name a few : from AIDS in Thailand – Dr.Wiwat’ remarkable influence strategy, Dr.Hopkins and The Carter Center – Guinea worm disease eradication efforts in North Africa, Delancy Street Foundation by Dr.Mimi Silbert to SKS Microcredit, India.

Amazing stories covered by authors where an individual connects to a Person’s Sense of Self – Grigori Perelman solved Poincare Conjecture – a problem no other mathematician had been able to solve despite a century of intense worldwide effort. Perelman posted it on web. He was offered amazing rewards which he refused. Satisfaction at personal level was all that mattered to him.

On the other hand the book also brings out challenges influencers must master. Here it covers significance of intrinsic sources of motivation which are almost never brought into play as human beings react often as if they are on auto pilot and as such fail to consider how their ideals, values or moral codes get impacted due to the immediate choices.

Dr. Albert Bandura is guide for authors and his research brings a new facet. His research uncovered four processes that allow individuals to act in ways that are clearly disconnected from their moral compass. A question then is, How is it that people are able to maintain moral disengagement? This in turn transforms human beings into amoral agents which leads to moral justification, dehumanization, minimizing and displacing responsibility.

Launch of Challenger : Sometime in January 1986 Robert Lund VP of Morton Thiokol sat in a meeting whether or not to allow the space shuttle to launch. O-rings would fail at low temperature.. No one knew how O-Rings would perform at very low temperatures. Previous launch at 54 degrees, expectations were for 26 degrees –if the O-Rings failed, the disaster was in offing.

Supervisor says to Lund “Take off your engineering hat and put on your management hat.” And that did it. The modest verbal shift transformed it into making a management decision and uncertainty as well. Lund assented to the launch, the rest is history.

Dennis Gioia, Ford recall director looked at photos of burned out Ford Pinto in which several people died. A fix would cost a mere $11, The Ford Motor Company set a human life at $ 200,000 – cost of recall revealed that the greatest dollar benefit would come from keeping the vehicle cheap and settling inevitable.

Apart from sitting in judge’s chair, the authors candidly share human proclivity of doing something similar every day and that we all do something similar every day.

The book ends with a chapter on Become an Influencer and takes a reader through examples covered and how one can actually apply to relevant situation.

Madhuri Lele

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