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Missing Layer, Filled?

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 17, 2009

71759221_78b453b4a5_mNetwork and collaboration tools not only offer ways to directly improve productivity and innovation by connecting previously isolated parts of your organization, they can also help identify and influence behaviors that lead to better overall performance. In a way, you can look at integration of these tools with enterprise systems as “filling in” a missing layer between two other ways behaviors are already being influenced.

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything” by Patterson, et al, provides some excellent examples of people creating change in many different areas, both public and private, under daunting circumstances. They achieved this by focusing on vital behaviors and by using combinations of sources of influence to change those behaviors. Briefly put, their sources of influence model distills the forces that impact behavior down to just two mental maps, Motivation (“Is it worth it?”) and Ability (“Can I do it?”). In addition, these mental maps are subdivided into Personal, Social, and Structural sources. This results in a total of six sources and the authors make two important points:

  1. The more of the six sources you can tap into, the more likely your influence efforts will succeed.
  2. The more you tap into the Personal first, followed by the Social second, and then finally the Structural third, the more likely you will succeed.

What does this have to do with integrating network and collaboration tools with enterprise systems? We can view these systems as initially having been focused on supporting influencing behaviors from a Structural perspective. This was through things like performance and compensation (Structural – Motivation) and resource planning (Structural – Ability). Gradually, they added focus on supporting influencing behaviors from a Personal perspective. This was through things like tracking competencies (Personal – Ability) and development (Personal – Motivation). This mapping isn’t perfect and there aren’t hard lines between these areas, but you can see how the framework can be applied to understanding how influence is supported.

This framework then causes us to ask, “Where is the support for the Social layer?” Is there a way in which systems can support influencing behavior through Social-Motivation (i.e. networks of relationships that encourage the kinds of behavior someone would like to do more of) and Social-Ability (i.e. ones that support these new behaviors)? One way Social-Ability could be supported is by integrating networking and collaboration tools to support people finding the expertise they need to help achieve their goals. A way in which Social-Motivation could be supported is by integrating these tools with an individual’s development efforts.

Those are just a couple of examples and this is only a start at looking into how to support changing behaviors more effectively. Changing behaviors is one of the trickiest and most difficult, but in many ways the most effective, way to improve performance. We are often uncomfortable with it because we often confuse influence with manipulation or coercion. This makes us either reluctant to attempt influence because we don’t want our intentions to be misunderstood or it makes us resistant to influence because we don’t want to feel we’re being controlled. The former can be addressed by being transparent and honest with people about intention (the antithesis of manipulation) and the latter can be addressed by starting with the individual at the Personal level (as advised by the authors.)

Photo by Dog Company

2 Responses to “Missing Layer, Filled?”

  1. Meg Bear said

    the whole idea that the personal level must come first makes sense to me. I think this gets to the point that authenticity serves you best overall. I also find this kind of analysis so very interesting, thanks for summarizing this for us Mark.

  2. […] Missing Layer, Filled? […]

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