Saturday, April 13, 2013

Books: Influencer

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al
Copyright 2007
8.5 hours on audio
Read by Eric Conger

Make the undesirable desirable. Use social motivation. Change the environment to achieve results.

These were some of the ideas touted by the authors of this book. They set out to help you become a person who institutes change, even within yourself.

We all have ingrained behavior, some of which, it seems, will never be changed. The authors suggest we constantly ask ourselves two questions before we set about making a change:

"Can I make the change?" and "Is it worth the effort?"

Those answers, of course, vary from person to person, and change for one person may not be worth it to another. So how do you turn around an entire group of people?

The book uses a variety of studies from psychology, organizational theory, history, and sociology to make its point and to illustrate what makes people behave like they do.

One thing this book made apparent is that constructive change takes a lot of time, effort, and money. Constructive change does not happen over night. One must identify the problem, look for positive deviants (people in the group who are already performing as desired), and then create and implement a plan to target one or two behaviors at time. You cannot change the herd en mass.

I listened to the book while I was driving in the car, so I could not take notes. There were a few things that I thought were noteworthy, but much of the book seemed out of my reach. I am not, for instance, in any sort of position where I can influence a huge group of people. I might be able to influence my immediate family, and perhaps I could influence a few of you, dear blog readers, but I doubt that anything I write is going to move you to do much. I may be able to convince you that such-and-such is a worthy charity, or point out that the the state's House of Representatives is moving to vote on thus-and-so and a call from you would help the yay or nay, but I am not sure what influence I might have beyond that, if that.

It would be nice if I could, say, influence people to stop shooting one another, or if I could influence people to stop and think before they speak. But I don't have any idea how to go about that, not even after listening to this book, and apparently neither does anyone else.

However, I learned a lot while listening to this book, especially about specific social changes in the world, and how we all really could have a decent and good life for everyone if people cared enough about one another and their goals to take the time to make the effort.

One thing I learned about was something called guinea worm disease. This is a parasite that once was rampant in Asia and Africa, but it has virtually been eliminated through humanitarian efforts promoted by the Carter Center (as in Jimmy). Experts predict it will be the first parasite to ever be completely eradicated in humans in the near future.

Another thing I learned about was Grameen Bank in Africa. This bank was established specifically to help the poor and disadvantaged through an ingenious network of support. Today Grameen Bank is owned by the rural poor whom it serves. Borrowers of the Bank own 90% of its shares, while the remaining 10% is owned by the government (from the website). I had never heard of this and couldn't help but wonder, what if OUR banks loaned out money to people with ideas, to help them get started, instead of denying them because they weren't already rich? What an amazing idea! I have to wonder why we don't have banks like that. The answer, of course, is that is not in the capitalism code. Too much like socialism, I guess.

I also learned that one reason families have become less structured is because of the microwave oven, which allowed for single-preparation of meals, and that one level of influence - societal pressure - has lessened in part because of the "action hero" in movies, who never needs anyone. You know, Iron Man is more popular than the Fantastic Four, that sort of thing. We don't need no stinkin' team players in our lives, right? We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do it ourselves (wasn't that part of the screams and moans during the most recent presidential campaign?). And while the authors never once mentioned this, it was obvious to me that workers have suffered and are suffering because of the loss of influence of the labor unions.

The book attempted to bring massive social change initiatives back around to a person level by using someone trying to lose weight as their subject matter. I do not think the authors were overly successful in that effort. A person would need to change their environment, create a support system - in other words, pretty much change their life - if they have a weight problem. Most of us fat people already know that. So the book told us what we were supposed to do, like most of them do, but just like my doctor who says, "go on a diet" there isn't much advice as to how exactly one does that, other than "don't buy junk food" and "put the treadmill in the TV room."

At the end, the book touted a website with additional resources. But that website doesn't exist anymore and instead it takes you to what I presume is the authors' website. There is an offer there for some free stuff if you give your name and email, but I haven't signed up for it.

In case you were wondering, the blub on the back is what enticed me to pick this up. It says, "robust strategies for making change inevitable in your personal life, your business, and your world."

I see they have a more recent book out called Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success and I think I will add that one to my list of books to read in the very near future. Maybe it will address the "how to change" issue a little better.

*The link at the picture of the book above goes to the Kindle edition, which is the cheapest way to obtain this book.*

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