In 1984, I was in Madison, Wisconsin, pursuing an MBA in marketing from UW-Wisconsin, having previously received a BA in psychology. At the same time, Dr. Robert Cialdini was publishing the first edition of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Since that time, I’ve held many marketing positions, always including the responsibility for motivating individuals to do something my company wants them to do. Choose a doctor in my group, pick my hospital to get your mammogram in, attend the CE program my company is putting on, pay dues to the association I work for… just a few examples! Why people do what they do, how they make decisions, what you should offer and how to communicate to sway them in one direction or another are all topics I’ve been obsessed with in theory and in practice.
That’s why it was so timely to get Bob Sutton’s blog post on the 11 books every leader should read. I like Bob. I like his blog. And his The No Asshole Rule book is a really helpful book for anyone who has ever had to work with one of those, ahem, jerks. Of the 11 books on the list, I threw out a couple (the one about Pixar and the one on building the Panama Canal) for now because I just could not summon the enthusiasm for the topics, and got the other nine from the library or via Amazon. My motivation? I’m convinced that in today’s world, if you do the same thing you’ve been doing, you’ll get less and less of what you want to get. I want to think a thought that will let me jump the tracks. Hence, my giant stack of books.
I started with Influence. It totally blew me away. Great writing from an academic, great integration of data (research studies) and personal experience (going undercover as a car salesman to get the truth about the tricks that are used), and a tremendous spur to the practical imagination. I seriously read this book with a note pad and a pen nearby so I could jot down ideas. And stayed up late because I couldn’t turn my brain off. Especially interesting was the fact that the book does NOT focus on value – what you get for your money – or on alignment – getting what you need. It’s not about the what. It’s about the why and the how.
Here’s the Cliff’s notes version of Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence.”
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
Reviewing the list, one thing I noted – and you will, too, if you work in sales or marketing – is that none of these “weapons” are new. You already knew that giving someone a small gift makes him feel obligated and so he is more likely to do what you want in return. (Weapon #1: Thank you for those address stickers, Salvation Army!) You know that if you lend somebody $10, you are more likely to lend them $100 (#2). That if everybody is doing it, you are more likely to do it, too, no matter what your mother says (#3). That you are more likely to buy the belt and scarf to go with the dress if you like the sales person who is helping you (#4). That if Bob Sutton recommends a business book, you will buy it (#5) And if it’s the last robe in your size and the color you like at Pottery Barn, you are more likely to buy it yourself than put it on your Christmas list. (This happened just today. It’s very cozy. #6)
What makes Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion so useful is that it is all here, in one place, presented in an engaging way, with tons of examples that make you say “Hmmm….” and start to scribble on your notepad. Buy this book and share it!