Science in Practice
by Dr. Robert Cialdini
I once attended a conference where I heard an academic described as someone who “ wasn't satisfied with an idea that worked in practice until it had been tried out in theory.” As a behavioral scientist I will always applaud efforts to ensure that, wherever possible, academic rigour is applied to the evaluation of an idea or strategy. At the same time I recognize that a theoretically interesting idea alone, without a meaningful application, will often remain just that; a theoretically interesting idea.
I also maintain that steps be taken to avoid decision making based on nothing more than a gut-informed ‘this seems like the right thing to do’. The cautionary nature of organizations brought about by the volatility of markets and the global economic downturn has meant that strategies and approaches based on intuition and gut-feel alone are increasingly dealt short shrift by decision makers.
At INFLUENCE AT WORK we believe that the theory of an idea and the practical and ethical application of that same idea are not mutually exclusive. All are crucial to a modern day business in achieving its goals. Through our work we strive to advance
not only a scientific understanding of what moves people to change but a practical understanding that organizations and business can employ that benefit all. It is central to everything we do.
Our mantra is Proven Science for Business Success.
It is a philosophy that appears to have landed on fertile ground. I am delighted when I receive reports from readers describing how they employed an insight from persuasion science to good effect that benefitted not just themselves but also the person they were interacting with. Participants who attend our Principles of Persuasion Workshops frequently report how the six universal principles of influence have helped them to develop practices and strategies for their business that have resulted in efficiencies, savings and sales growth worth thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars.
As we continue to face one of the most uncertain and economically challenging environments in recent history perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised how interest in the science of influence and the behavioral sciences in general has exploded of late. Corporations can ill afford to hedge their bets on an idea grounded in nothing more than a hunch. Organizations are less amenable to ‘taking a punt’ and increasingly demand an evidence base to inform their decision making. Even governments are getting in on the act as they fight to provide for an increasingly demanding citizenship with faltering capacity and resources.
In such volatile times traditional economic and legislative approaches can come up short. Incentives, penalties and policies whilst crucial are rarely enough. We need to think again and consider how behavioral approaches can be practical applied to support efforts. Here at INFLUENCE AT WORK we have been at the forefront applying insights from the science of influence to such challenges.
Most importantly, as well as providing the theory and the practice, Steve details the impact of these approaches – and the results that are no longer just measured in millions. Billions of dollars are now being realized in efficiencies, savings and revenues. This shift from millions to billions makes a compelling case that approaches informed from persuasion science should increasingly warrant a cen
tral stage of business strategy rather than lie on the relative fringes.This week the October 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review hits the shelves. The lead IdeaWatch article has been written by my Yes! co-author and IIR staff writer Steve Martin CMCT. In the piece Steve describes how social norms are being successfully employed to overcome a variety of challenges and provides key insights that any business can employ in their own environment.
If you would like to read the HBR article we have 50 electronic copies to offer to the first 50 IIR readers posting a comment in response to this post. After posting your comment please send your email address to email@example.com writing ‘HBR’ in the subject and we’ll arrange for it to be sent to you on return.