Thursday, April 2, 2015

Commitment as a Facilitation Weapon?

I recently finished reading “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Cialdini. The six ‘weapons of influence’ that he describes in the book are fascinating and I found myself thinking about how any influence tool can be used for good or ill.

One of the principles that caught my attention with respect to the work that I do was the Commitment principle. Cialdini describes several ways that people can be influenced using this principle. For example, two groups of people participating in an experiment were asked to donate to a cancer charity. One of the groups donated more money than the other through a simple influence ‘trick’. A week before being asked to donate, that group was asked to wear a cancer awareness button - something simple that they could hardly say no to. However, the simple act of wearing the button for one week influenced their donation habits later on.

You may also recognize this principle in your own purchasing stories. For example, automotive dealerships will wait until you commit to purchasing your vehicle before talking about extended warranties, undercoating, or other extras. They know that asking for these extras after you commit to the larger purchase will increase the chance that you will spend a few more dollars.

However, not all uses of this principle need to be used to gain more sales dollars. I first came upon this principle when I was watching Linda Rising facilitate a retrospective for the planning team of Much Ado About Agile in 2010. She started the retrospective by reciting North Kerth’s Prime Directive and then asked each team member one by one if they would verbally agree to uphold this statement during the meeting. Later, she told me that this simple verbal agreement is an influencing strategy that helps set the right tone for the retrospective. As Cialdini notes, if people commit to an idea verbally, they are more likely to follow through on that commitment.

So, whether you are trying to increase sales, or just set a positive tone for your next meeting, give the commitment principle a try.

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