Saturday 21 March 2015

Naming the Book

As anyone who has anything to do with me has probably heard by now, I am currently writing a book. In fact, I have finished writing it and am busy editing it at the moment.

One of the problems with which I have been wrestling is the title, as I recount here.

The original working title was: Freeing People to Perform - How changing their stories can transform people. However, over time I grew less convinced that was the right title, and then had the idea of calling it Twice Upon a Time: The Art of Multistory Development; after some reflection and discussion, that developed into  Twice Upon A Time: How Multistory Development can improve organisational performance.

My concern about that title, which I still quite like, is that Twice Upon a Time has been used a lot. There is a book, a series of books, a single, a film... 

So I have been continuing to mull this over, and today came up with the idea of Shifting Stories. That appeals for a number of reasons. In the first place, it retains the idea that what the book is about is changing the stories we or others have; it also has a nice resonance (cf shifting sands) implying that our stories about reality are not immutable.  As far as I can see, it is only used once elsewhere, as the title of a rather esoteric book about history, gossip, and lore from Tang Dynasty Gossip China, so the risk of confusion is minimal. And if you are interested in stories from the Tang Dynasty, and how they have developed, I am sure Sarah Allen's book is the book for you.

So at present, I am quite keen to go with Shifting Stories. Which raises the question of a subtitle.

The options I am currently considering include:

Shifting Stories: How changing their stories can transform people.
Shifting Stories: How changing their stories can free people to perform
Shifting Stories: How Multistory Development can improve organisational performance.

Which leads to another problem. I have described the approach I explore as a multistory approach, and talk about multistory development. I quite like those labels, as they accurately encapsulate the central idea: that there are many stories available to us about any given reality; and that developing alternative stories is often very helpful.  But some people have said that the image of concrete carparks is a distraction to them.  So I have experimented with other descriptions, most recently the ManyStory approach.  But they don't feel as comfortable to me, so I am minded to go back to multistory.

So this post is really a request for feedback on any of these: let me know your views either via comments, on twitter, or by email. I will be most grateful.

Saturday 14 March 2015

A Rare Public Appearance...

Due to the nature of my business, most of my work is commissioned by corporate or institutional clients: which means that unless you are employed by the relevant  one of them, you will not be able to attend my workshops or programmes.

However, due to popular demand (hem hem) and coincidentally around the time I am gearing up to launch my book on an unsuspecting world, I am making a rare public appearance, to which all (and indeed sundry) are invited.

This will be at the ChangeCamp in Gosforth, on Saturday 28th March.  For full details of Change Camp, visit their site.

My session will be on Stories for Change. We will explore the model I have developed and describe in my book, in the context of coaching, with a short case study on video. Then participants will have the opportunity to apply the model in practice in pairs: one coaching, the other being coached.  We will then review their experience and seek to draw some conclusions.  Finally we will discuss different applications for the model.

It will be a stimulating and highly practical session, so do come along. At £25 (or £10 for concessions) it is a real bargain - and that includes several other sessions of your choice through the day, as well as excellent networking.

I look forward to seeing many friends, old and new, on the day.

Friday 6 March 2015

Cialdini's Influencing Principles

During a workshop in Cardiff the other day, I butted into a conversation because... well, it was one of those conversations I had to butt into. I had just heard a discussion between a couple of participants where two examples of effective influence mapped perfectly onto one of the models of influence I often work with, the work of Robert Cialdini. So I asked if they had heard of Cialdini's work, and they hadn't. I proceeded to explain that he had identified six 'decision triggers' which, he claims, are 'features of a situation that cause people to stop processing, stop thinking, stop researching, stop investigating the situation further and decide.'

I then explained how the two examples they had just been talking about exemplified two of them, and they were interested enough for me to carry on (or just very polite). So I went on to list the other four. Or rather three. Because, of course, the final one eluded me. Luckily even as I was speaking one of them had googled Cialdini on her phone (so entranced by my eloquence, clearly...) and was able to prompt me with the sixth.

Despite my memory lapse, I do think the model good, and the principles interesting, so here they are:

The Principle of Liking

This principle is based upon the observable fact that people tend to like those who like them. As Cialdini has put it: ‘If you want to influence people, make friends.’ In his conception, there are three paths toward liking:

The Principle of Reciprocity
According to this principle, people the world over feel obliged to respond to generosity. It is no coincidence that in many languages, one way of thanking people is to say 'much obliged.' (Obrigado, etc)

This is extremely powerful and can often stimulate unequal exchanges. In one experiment, for example, half the people attending an art appreciation session were offered a soft drink. Afterwards, all were asked if they would buy 25-cent raffle tickets. The people who had been offered the soft drinks purchased twice as many raffle tickets, whether or not they had accepted the drinks! 

The Principle of Social Proof
We often decide what is correct behaviour in a new situation by noticing what other people think is correct. If everyone else is behaving a certain way, many of us assume that is the right thing to do. 

Based on the cultural assumption that people will follow the lead of respectable ‘others,’ (particularly those who are ‘like them’) the principle of social proof amounts to the strategic use of peer power. Cialdini suggests that persuasion can often be at its most effective when it comes from peers. In a sales or marketing context, this can mean finding testimonials that demonstrate a high level of satisfaction; but to be effective these testimonials must be drawn from clients in a similar situation to the proposed clients.

The Principle of Commitment and Consistency
Once people have made a choice or taken a stand, they are under both internal and external pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. This desire for consistency offers us all a shortcut to action as we recall a previous decision we have already made. When you can get someone to commit verbally to an action, the chances go up that they'll actually follow it through.

The Principle of Authority
This principle is based on the cultural trait of deferral to the word of a perceived ‘expert.’ Cialdini attributes the tendency to defer to expert opinion to the ‘teeming complexity of contemporary life.’ In this context, the expert offers an ‘efficient shortcut to good decisions.’ Most of us are raised with a respect for authority, both real and implied. 

In order to instigate the use of this principle, you must expose your expertise and talents. It may not be adequate to assume a foreknowledge of your standing. However, you need to find ways to do that which will not be perceived as boasting.

The Principle of Scarcity
The principle of scarcity is based on the skewing of the value sense by short supply. This method of influencing has been used extensively as a marketing strategy, but may be adapted to other scenarios. Highlighting the unique benefits of a product purchase or behavioural change, or the exclusivity of some information held by you can give you leverage in a negotiation situation.

His book on all this is very good reading, packed with examples, and entertainingly written.