Posted tagged ‘influence’

Porn, weed and fireworks

29 October 2012

Last weekend I was privileged to contribute to the Human Brochure – a world first initiative by Australian Capital Tourism to promote the nation’s capital city, Canberra.

When I told my friends that I was going down to Canberra for the weekend, they invariably asked: “Why..?”

You see, Canberra has a reputation among Australians as being boring. As the home of yawners such as Parliament and the High Court, Canberra is associated with porky politicians and pompous legal types.

Paradoxically, Canberra is also notorious well-known for its sale of X-rated erotica, its decriminalisation of cannabis, and its availability of pyrotechnics. Yep, our very own Amsterdam.

But like most places where people haven’t actually been, its reputation is about 20 years out of date.

And the Human Brochure set out to prove it.

Human Brochure logo

The idea of the Human Brochure was to invite 250 social media-savvy people to Canberra; feed them; shelter them; and cart them around to several major tourist attractions. In return, we were asked to “spread the word online” about “all the great things” we got up to.

I joined the Arts & Culture stream. We were treated to national treasures such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Canberra Glassworks – not to mention lunch at Two Before Ten, dinner at Mezzalira and z’s at the Diamant Hotel.

That may sound excessive (and yes, we were spoiled out of our minds) but it all boils down to how much you value word-of-mouth marketing. The point of the exercise was for us to share our thoughts, opinions and experiences with our followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Sure, Australian Capital Tourism could have pumped the money into yet another traditional advertising campaign, but we all know how they’ve been tracking. Instead, they tapped into the power of personal influence.

Here are a few of my tweets…

I was mindful not to sound like an over zealous salesman. I endeavoured to present only genuine thoughts and share only real experiences. Luckily that was easy to do because I thoroughly enjoyed just about everything!

I did provide some constructive feedback to the National Museum (it conspicuously omits Parramatta, one of Australia’s most important historical places), and I suggested the NFSA play more of its precious footage to visitors (they have since pointed me to their excellent YouTube channel).

But miniscule gripes aside, I expect the Human Brochure will prove to be a roaring success. Not only was the glory of Canberra amplified throughout the social media metasphere, but the initiative itself was the subject of interstate media attention.

Time will tell whether ROI is achieved. My prediction is that other tourism boards will copy the Human Brochure concept, and that will be the ultimate endorsement.

Regardless, I can say hand on heart, I had a wonderful time in Canberra.

Even without the porn, weed and fireworks.

The power of one

24 September 2012

A lifetime ago I worked in an office that, like most others, had a tacit dress code. A tie was not mandatory unless you were meeting clients; otherwise a collared shirt and sensible slacks (or a nice blouse and a long-enough skirt) sufficed.

One Friday, however, my bohemian colleague rocked up in a tee, jeans, and something the kids these days would call “shoes”.

When someone asked him why he was dressed that way, he shot back a quizzical look and stated matter-of-factly, “It’s Casual Friday”.

After a private chuckle, I didn’t think too much of it until the following Friday when something unexpected happened: other people were wearing casual clothes. Then the next week, more people were in their civvies. And so on every week until eventually everybody was embracing “Casual Friday”.

Now, Casual Friday is an institution at this company. You would look very strange indeed if you turned up in a suit.

Dilbert.com

As I reflected on this little episode, I pondered the teachings of Fred Kofman.

In Conscious Business, Kofman defines the difference between a “victim” and a “player”. A victim blames all of his or her woes on external factors – the bus was late; the traffic was horrendous; my boss is an idiot; our IT sucks; we don’t have a learning culture around here.

In contrast, a player responds to the environmental conditions to his or her advantage – he calls ahead to push back that meeting; she leaves half an hour earlier to beat the traffic; he buys a judiciously chosen book for his boss for Christmas; she experiments with externally hosted social media; he engages the few employees in the organisation who are hungry to learn.

In other words, the player exploits his or her “locus of control”. Of course you’re not the CEO, so you can’t make anything happen just by decreeing it. However, you do have a sphere of influence. Are you using it?

Conscious Business

If Kofman’s work is a bit too self-helpy for you, let me rephrase it in edu-speak:

Sometimes the ones most guilty of the knowing-doing gap are ourselves.

Ironic, eh?

As L&D professionals, we know most learning undertaken in the workplace is informal. We know social learning works. We know our target audience is addicted to their smartphones and tablets.

So what are we doing about it?
Jeans

The moral of the story of my bohemian friend is that we are more powerful than we realise. A single person can make a world of difference, if he or she has passion, courage and persistence.

I’m certainly not goading you into making drastic wholesale changes that are going to bankrupt your company or get you fired. All I’m saying is that sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

If my bohemian friend had asked to wear his jeans that Friday, he would almost certainly have been declined. So he didn’t ask; he just did it. If it backfired, he simply would have fallen back into line the next Friday. (And no doubt try something else!)

So I put to you:

What do you wish would change at your workplace?

Are you a victim or a player?

What can you influence?

What can you sensibly risk asking for forgiveness for rather than for permission?

Do you have the guts to make a difference?

It’s time to wield your power of one.

The nature of digital influence

14 May 2012

Earlier this year I was honoured to scrape into Bob Little’s Asia-Pacific’s list of e-learning movers and shakers.

This list “is compiled on the basis of a person’s perceived current influence on the e-learning industry – as a practitioner, commentator, facilitator and/or thought leader.”

To the cynics out there who claim this is a PR stunt: I say you’re right. This kind of exercise is obviously geared towards lifting the profile of protagonists in the region.

And of course, the omission of certain names has caused a few ripples. For example, Bob was contacted by people in Australia and New Zealand, while a fellow in Malaysia took to Twitter:

All this got me thinking, what is the nature of influence? This isn’t a novel question, but it’s one that hasn’t been answered satisfactorily IMHO.

To me, the term influence refers to someone’s ability to change someone else’s behaviour. If you are “influential”, you prompt someone with whom you have had some form of contact not only to think about things differently, but also to do things differently and – hopefully – achieve a better outcome.

The emergence of digital influence

In today’s world of the interwebs, one of the primary vehicles of influence is social media – hence the adjective digital. Platforms that spring to mind include WordPress, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Facebook friendships visualised

I find digital influence intriguing because of its scalability. For example, an expert from Shanghai could influence many thousands of practitioners in China, but is he or she influential in the Asia-Pacific region? Or is the spirit of lists like Bob’s meant to highlight people who are influential across the region? Social media can facilitate that.

In a similar vein, you can exert influence by speaking at conferences, consulting clients, teaching students, and publishing research; but unless you use social media as a lever, I expect you will struggle to sustain influence on a continental scale.

The subjective measurement of digital influence

The next obvious question, then, is how to measure digital influence? Another old chestnut, and again one that hasn’t been answered satisfactorily IMHO.

Measuring tape

To me, digital influence can be measured either subjectively or objectively. Bob’s perceptive measure is an example of the former: the respondents were literally asked who influences their work. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

However, I can see that a subjective measure has weaknesses. For example, an individual respondent might be prejudiced, or parochial, or insular, or driven by a personal crusade. There wouldn’t be too many of these types among educated professionals… right?

The good news is such weaknesses can be mitigated by the design of the survey. If it reaches a sufficient cross-section of respondents across the region and its answers are replicated, the weight of numbers should win out in the end.

Furthermore, I consider the breadth of the respondent pool to be infinitely more important than its depth. Even if the number of respondents is relatively small, the fact that a particular name has not made the list while others have speaks volumes!

The objective measurement of digital influence

Some readers will scoff at my line of reasoning and will instead promote the use of objective metrics to measure influence. Numbers never lie… right?

Klout icon

Klout calls itself “the standard for influence”. According to their website:

Klout measures influence online using data from your social networks. Anywhere you have an online presence, you have the opportunity to influence people by creating or sharing content that inspires actions such as likes, retweets, comments and more. The more engagement your posts receive, the more influential you are. Klout uses this information to provide you a Klout Score that measures your overall influence.

Sounds reasonable, but when Klout changed its algorithm last year, it was discredited by an avalanche of commentators – all of whom, I suspect, had experienced a reduction in their Klout Score.

Nonetheless, 90% of Bob’s e-learning movers and shakers have a Klout Score of 40 or more.

Twitter icon

So how about the number of Twitter followers? This seems like a no-brainer, but have you seen the no-brainers who top the Twitter follower rankings?

Even if we restrict our criteria to e-learning professionals, does the number of followers really reflect someone’s influence? They might be entertaining or even thought provoking, but if they rarely change anyone’s behaviour, they could hardly be considered influential.

Then of course you have people with massive Twitter followings who aren’t quite in “e-learning”. I’m thinking of fellow Aussies like Ross Dawson, Jeff Bullas, Laurel Papworth and Darren Rowse. Surely they influence e-learning practitioners, but would any metric say so?

Indeed we see cross-pollination among Bob’s e-learning movers and shakers: 60% work in corporate e-learning, 20% in higher education, 10% in K-12, and 10% in telecommunications. All of them have a Twitter account, and 80% attract a following of over 1000.

WordPress icon

OK, how about the number of blog visitors, blog comments or RSS subscribers? This is starting to make more sense, but again I have concerns – particularly around the nature of the content.

For example, can a blogger who typically posts links to other people’s work be considered influential? Maybe, indirectly. Like a news reporter, they are awareness agents.

To me, though, the true influencer occupies the top of the food chain. He or she is the one who generates the original thought and contributes it to the world.

Among Bob’s e-learning movers and shakers, 90% write a blog. Each one of them produces their own content.

The 3 determinants of digital influence

So, if your aim is to influence e-learning on a continental scale, how do you go about it?

In light of my ruminations, I propose the following three determinants:

   1. Intend to change other people’s behaviour.
   2. Leverage social media to expand your sphere of influence.
   3. Produce original content.

As for measuring digital influence, objectivity is a false idol. While particular metrics may characterise influencers, they are by no means indicative and their role in comparative analysis is questionable.

It seems like such a redundant pursuit, when you could just ask your target audience one simple question:

Who influences you?

Heaven forbid.

Playing by numbers

23 April 2012

The theme of last week’s Learning Cafe in Sydney was How to Win Friends and Influence Learning Stakeholders.

Among the stakeholders considered was the “C-Level & Leadership”. This got me thinking, do the C-suite and lower rung managers expect different things from L&D?

There’s no shortage of advice out there telling us to learn the language of finance, because that’s what the CEO speaks. And that makes sense to me.

While some of my peers shudder at the term ROI, for example, I consider it perfectly reasonable for the one who’s footing the bill to demand something in return.

Show me the money.

Stack of Cash

But I also dare to suggest that the managers who occupy the lower levels of the organisational chart don’t give a flying fox about all that.

Of course they “care” about revenue, costs and savings – and they would vigorously say so if asked! – but it’s not what motivates them day to day. What they really care about is their team’s performance stats.

I’m referring to metrics such as:

• Number of widgets produced per hour
• Number of defects per thousand opportunities
• Number of policy renewals
• Number of new write-ups

In other words, whatever is on their dashboard. That’s what they are ultimately accountable for, so that’s what immediately concerns them.

Woman drawing a graph

The business savvy L&D consultant understands this dynamic and uses it to his or her advantage.

He or she appreciates the difference between what the client says they want, and what they really need.

He or she realises the client isn’t invested in the training activity, but rather in the outcome.

He or she doesn’t start with the solution (“How about a team-building workshop?”), but rather with the performance variable (“I see your conversion rate has fallen short of the target over the last 3 months”).

He or she knows that the numbers that really matter don’t necessarily have dollar signs in front of them.

Respect for Klout

8 November 2011

A person’s respect for Klout is directly proportional to their Klout Score.

Respect for Klout


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