Inside Influence Report

By:  Steve Martin, CMCTthesmallbig-book-smaller

In the recently published book THE SMALL BIG co-authored by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein and myself, we make a bold claim. Despite there being hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individual persuasion strategies used across the workplace, nearly all of the techniques that have been scientifically demonstrated to successfully change the thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors of others gain their persuasive power by leveraging just one of three simple underlying human motivations;

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By Mr. Steve MartinGoals concept in word tag cloud

Despite our best intentions, many of the goals we set for ourselves go unfulfilled. To improve our career prospects, we’ll research going to night school but not make it to class. We’ll purchase a health club membership, only to find our attendance wanes after a couple of sessions. We promise to put a little extra cash aside towards that dream trip, but when the end of the week arrives, we convince ourselves we can always start next month. The relationship between intention and implementation is often a weak one. In previous INSIDE INFLUENCE REPORTS we have discussed various strategies to encourage people to follow through with their commitments. One of the more effective is to create a specific plan for where, when, and how they will go about accomplishing it. Persuasion scientists call this an implementation intention plan.

Often we have multiple goals that we’re juggling to accomplish. And at work we can face the challenge of persuading colleagues to commit to several important tasks. In situations like these, will the implementation intentions that serve single goals pretty well extend to an entire to-do list?


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By:  Steve Martin, CMCTSutton Place Hotel

In 1979, noted psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Schauss conducted a series of studies designed to measure the mental and physical strength of one hundred and fifty young men. Arriving at the laboratory, each man was invited into a small room where one of two cardboard signs was held up in front of them. After looking directly at the card for one minute they were invited to take part in a series of physical strength tests. Sometimes they were asked to raise their arms directly in front of their bodies while downward pressure was applied. On other occasions, a dynamometer test was used to give a more accurate measurement. Regardless of the test employed, it quickly became apparent that the cardboard signs each man was asked to gaze at first had a remarkable influence over their subsequent physical performance. There were no words on these cardboard signs. Nor were there images on them either. They differed only in color.

One was blue, the other pink.

It’s easy to dismiss the results of Schauss’ experiments as fluke. And given the weakening effect the pink card had on the men’s physical strength it’s even easier to label them a crude demonstration of a widely held stereotype. But to do so would be a mistake. In the thirty or so years since these experiments were conducted, behavioral scientists have developed increasingly sophisticated ways of studying how our environment shapes decisions and behaviors. Their results leave little room for doubt. While we’d like to think that our decisions are always the result of effortful cognition, the reality is somewhat different. Much of our behavior is driven by unconscious cues present in our environment. One of these cues is color, influencing a wide array of decisions and behaviors from how competitive or creative we are, to who we find attractive on dating sites and even if we’ll say ‘Yes’ to the offer of a second helping at next weekend’s dinner party.

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iStock_000015867912SmallBy:  Steve Martin, CMCT

Recognizing the Chicago Bulls managing partner’s reputation as a ruthless negotiator, in 1996 Michael Jordan’s agent made a decision to ‘take the Bulls by the horns’ and table an audacious $52 million salary request. The parties settled at $33.14 million, a record that remains the single highest annual salary in NBA history. For Jordan and his agent, making the opening offer was a strategy that clearly paid dividends.

By way of contrast when the sportswear manufacturer Lacoste adopted a similar strategy in their negotiations with tennis star Andy Roddick the result was disastrous. They tabled an opening offer which included a clause reducing the value of the contract by 75 per cent if Roddick were to fall below 15th in the world rankings. Unbeknownst to Lacoste, Roddick had already made the decision to retire if he fell in the world standings and so Roddick’s agent ‘reluctantly agreed’ to Lacoste’s terms in return for a larger annual guaranteed sum. In this example submitting the first offer did nothing to help the Lacoste bottom line.

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By:  Steve Martin,

In the introduction of Influence, Robert Cialdini recounts the story of a friend who, in an attempt to sell off a consignment of slow moving turquoise jewelry, left a hand-written note for one of her sales staff to mark down the stock at “x ½” price before leaving for an out-of-town trip. On her return, she wasn’t surprised to learn that the stock had sold out, BUT she was surprised that due to her bad penmanship, the saleswoman mistakenly reading the “x ½” on her note as “x 2”, and everything had sold for twice the original price. The story illustrates nicely how, in the absence of other information, the price of an item can often serve as an effective decision trigger—in this case if something is expensive then it must be good.

Such an effect doesn’t just apply to high-end keepsakes like jewelry. It can also sway our evaluations of consumables too.  For example, studies have shown that people’s evaluations of wine are significantly higher if they’re told it is expensive before tasting. Similarly, learning the quality brand name of a food before sampling often leads to improved perceptions of taste and satisfaction. 

In each case the information, be it about the price or the brand, is presented prior to sampling the product at hand. But what happens if that same information is presented after, rather than immediately before, sampling? And what are the implications for your business when it comes to presenting information to your clients and customers? 

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“This program will help executives make better decisions and use their influence wisely… Robert Cialdini has had a greater impact on my thinking on this topic than any other scientist… The best popular book that demonstrates six or eight ways in which the quirks of your own mind will frequently prove dysfunctional to your best interests is Cialdini’s Influence.”
CHARLES T. MUNGER, Vice Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

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