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How to Influence Groups

Posted by Jody Urquhart on Tue, Aug 04, 2015 @ 02:09 PM

motivational author speakerIn their book, SWITCH: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, authors and motivational speakers, Chip and Dan Heath use an interesting analogy to illustrate why we act faster as individuals then we do in group.

The authors suggest that if you were with one other person in a room and that person suffered a heart attack, you would leap into action.

If that same person suffered a heart attack in a room full of other people, you would pause, survey the room,observe others reaction and possibly take action if nobody else did.

What the analogy illustrates is our reaction times are slower in a group because people tend to do things after we see our peers doing them. We follow the crowd.

In another example, obesity is shown to be contagious among our peers.  A Harvard study that lasted over 36 years found that when someone becomes obese, the odds that their friends will become obese triples. The research shows, we instinctively change our idea of what is an acceptable weight by looking at our peers.

The authors and speakers further argue that drinking is contagious, so is marriage, politeness( or lack of) and many other things.

We imitate the behaviour of others, especially when the situation is unfamiliar, like when we go through ambiguous situations and are forced to change.

Thus, if you are trying to get a team to change, it pays to be aware of social cues. Others mimic these cues, so use this to your advantage.

The authors also point to the hotel towel example.

Hotels bathrooms typically display signs to implore guests to reuse hotel towels by asking them to consider the environment. One hotel used another approach, they posted a sign that said the majority of guests reuse their towels at least once during their stay.


Guests with this sign in their bathroom were 26 percent more likely to reuse the towels. The simple suggestion that other people reuse towels motivated hotel guest to do the same.

Here are some suggestions on how this Do What Others Do Philosopy can help you motivate others:

  • If people on your team do something well, publish it. If you find that 96 percent of staff take their lunch breaks on time... this becomes cues for the social norm. Publish it to further encourage the behaviour.
  • Use language like: the majority of our members buy this product first. People look to this as cues on how to behave.
  • Wording things with phrases like: other people are doing things on time, or this is what others are all striving for, will help people step up.



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