Under ambiguous circumstances, we look around to see what other people are doing to help us understand the situation and select the appropriate action ourselves. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, calls this phenomenon Social Proof and says it is rooted in conformity. If you want to influence someone to do something, show that others are already doing it.
How does this work in organizational change? Here are some examples:
- Showcase early adopters so people can see that “real” employees (not just change agents) are using a new system or process.
- Coach key people prior to meetings to demonstrate new behaviors.
- Recruit people to be the first to sign up on a volunteer list.
- Report the number or percentage of people who have participated in the change (i.e. accessed an online system, completed a survey, or went through training).
The power of Social Proof and conformity is strong. To feel it in action, just get on an elevator and try to face away from the door. Even in an empty elevator it seems awkward! You can harness this same phenomenon to influence change in your organization. Just show that others are doing it.
How might you show that others are doing it?
Read more of the 99 Ways to Influence Change.