career advice

The Six Laws of Influence

This is a follow-up to my previous post on knowledge as currency. One of the most celebrated books in modern America is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People for good reason. The art of persuasion cannot be understated. Like I said in my last post, those who leverage knowledge as skills when they are in high demand are poised to win, but what’s the point if no one knows (how great you are)? emphasis added.
Dale Carnegie famously defined diplomacy as this, “the art of letting someone have your own way.”
The great thing about this is  you don’t have to be a type A personality to influence people either. Normally I stay away from self-help sort of mumbo jumbo or self-assessments on your fixed personality traits such as the Meyer-Briggs test for good reason. What I find flawed in those sort of assessments is that they categorize you into a fixed type of person even if you might be 50% assertive and 50% introverted. They also assume that you can never change. Check out amazing things people have done in history, incredible stories of entrepreneurs who failed several times before succeeding and people who have turned their life around after drug addictions, traumatic events, etc. The fact is, the past is the past. To me, there’s no point over analyzing it.
In the Influence: The Pscyhology of Persuasion, the six laws of influence are tactics and rationales behind diplomacy. The below is an excerpt from the University of Kent‘s discussion of the book:
The law of scarcity
For example, if you let an interviewer know that you have other interviews coming up, they will be more interested in you as you are perceived as a sought after candidate.Items are more valuable to us when their availability is limited.
Scarcity determines the value of an item. For example if a customer is told that an item is in short supply which will soon run out they are more likely to buy it. Time also works here. A time limit is placed on the customers opportunity to buy something. Customers are told by the seller that unless they buy immediately, the price will increase next week. Auctions such as ebay create a buyer frenzy often resulting in higher prices than the object’s value. If something is expensive, we tend to assume that it must be of high quality because it is in demand: one jewellery shop doubled the priced of its items and were surprised to find that sales increased!
The law of reciprocity
If you give something to people, they feel compelled to return the favour.  People feel obliged to return a favour when somebody does something for them first. They feel bad if they don’t reciprocate. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
After someone has turned down a large request, they are very likely to agree to a smaller request. This is why shop staff are trained to show the most expensive item first. A salesman who suggested a 3 year warranty costing £100 found that most customers refused but were then happy to buy 1 year warranty costing £30.
The law of authority
We are more likely to comply with someone who is (or resembles) an authority. In other words, people prefer to take advice from “experts”. There is a deep seated duty to authority within us learned from parents, school, religious authorities etc.
The law of liking
We are more inclined to follow the lead of someone who is similar to us rather than someone who is dissimilar. We learn better from people who are similar to us. We are more likely to help people who dress like us, are the same age as us, or have similar backgrounds and interests. We even prefer people whose names are similar to ours. For this reason, sales trainers teach trainees to mirror and match the customer’s body posture, mood and verbal style.
Research at the University of Sussex found that people more easily remember faces of their own race, age group or gender than those of others.Lemmings
It’s also very important to remember and use people’s names. Others are much more likely to like you and respond to you if you say “Hello Sarah” rather than just “Hello”.
The law of social proof
We view a behaviour as more likely to be correct, the more we see others performing it. We assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something that we don’t. Especially when we are uncertain, we are more likely to trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd. This explains herd or lemming behaviour. For example when there is panic in the stock market everyone follows everyone else and sells, however great investors such as Warren Buffett, know that this is the time when the best bargains are to be had, and instead, buy.
The law of commitment and consistency
Consistency is seen as desirable as it is associated with strength, honesty, stability and logic.Inconsistent people may be seen as two-faced, indecisive and “butterflies”: never committing themselves for long enough to complete tasks. People will do more to stay consistent with their commitments and beliefs if they have already taken a small initial step.
If you can get someone to do you a small favour, they are more likely to grant you a larger favour later on. If someone does you a favour, let them know afterwards what happened: they will appreciate your feedback and may be able to help you further in future.
We evaluate a university more positively when we have got into it or a car we have bought when we own it. We look for the good points in the choice we have made or items we have bought as this justifies to ourselves our consistency of choice.
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Knowledge as Currency

Our global economy has evolved dramatically over the last two generations. A quick google search of things that were around in the 80’s that are extinct now, produces a whole slew of technological advances (and no, I’m not just talking about neon pants, boom boxes and mullets). Things like recording machines, cassette tapes, records, iPods, VHS among many others are relics of a bygone era.
Consumer Products aren’t the only things that have changed. In the 1980’s, the mining industry lost 25% while construction grew by 7%. In the 1990’s , Manufacturing employment dropped by 30%.  In the 00’s, from 2000 – 2007, tourism employment increased by 75%, and now retail is back higher than pre-recession levels while healthcare continues to rise steadily by 80%.
As technology has advanced at a rapid pace, our society has changed the way we value goods and services. Things that once would have been luxury items have now become free (just look at all of the capabilities of a smartphone). When things become free, we don’t value them. We expect them. Over time in an advanced economy, commodity products are elaborated in more ways and even labor is commodotized in the service industries.
While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge as a service is becoming increasingly valuable. This is an example of the clothes line paradox – over time there are things that disappear from our accounting statements. Tim O’Reilly, explains this concept well – things that hung on a “clothes line” do not use up energy and thus are not measured or counted. Since they are hard to measure, they “disappear” from the economy. Typically, losses come from goods-producing categories as consumer demand shifts to open-source platforms or expectations of what is included in a product rise (e.g. live streaming on YouTube).
Perhaps the best example of the rising value of certain forms of knowledge is the self-driving car industry. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X and Google’s self-driving car team, gives the example of Uber paying $700 million for Otto, a six-month-old company with 70 employees, and of GM spending $1 billion on their acquisition of Cruise. He concludes that in this industry, “The going rate for talent these days is $10 million.” You could make the same case for Snapchat’s $1 billion valuation and Facebook’s offer early on.
That’s $10 million per skilled worker, and while that’s the most stunning example, it’s not just true for incredibly rare and lucrative technical skills. People who identify skills needed for future jobs — e.g., data analyst, product designer, physical therapist — and quickly learn them are poised to win.
We have an economy that optimizes for the output, i.e. shareholder value. Shareholder value can be wildly variable on consumer sentiment, market demand and current events. Just look at the stock market.  It goes to show the importance of striking when the iron is hot. Knowledge used as a tool for persuasion is crucial in career development.
Those that optimize for a global economy use tools that help us see where outputs are maximized. Knowledge isn’t a zero sum game. It cannot be lost if gained by another person. With that being said, there will always be jobs to replace jobs for ambitious people. This advice is despite skeptics such as a McKinsey Institute study that claims that 5 percent of today’s occupations could be fully automated and 1/3 of the tasks involved in over a half of today’s occupations could be replaced by AI. There’s recent hype that an overwhelming number of jobs will disappear in the next 20-50 years. Forecasting it just that; a best guess. Past technological advances created more jobs than were lost shifting careers from manufacturing to information technology.
So what’s the point?
Knowledge is your competitive advantage. Leverage it where opportunity exists.
For example, one person who communicates his or her knowledge is able to command a higher salary than another who simply lists it as a bullet on a resume. Knowing how to and executing on the articulation of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself. Perception becomes reality.
Here are three ways to leverage knowledge: 
  1. In Transactions – Knowledge is leveraged in several ways in the way that services or goods are bought or sold; both in the raw materials and finished goods in addition to the tactics involved in negotiating the value of knowledge. This is primarily impacted by research and preparation. As the old saying goes, “poor preparation results in piss poor performance.” Don’t underestimate the value of it.
  2. Context Specific – This is unarticulated knowledge, experience-based, context specific or even muscle memory. The application or context specific knowledge is tacit because it is hard to share with others. Call it a gut feeling you get when you know something will or will not work. It is able to be recalled when triggered by specific memories either from first- or third-hand experience.
  3. Fostering Innovation – By sharing explicit knowledge in an increasingly fragmented world or doing something that fosters innovation in your free time. The greatest example of this is a side project. How a person spends their free time says a lot about them.  It can show the level of intensity, grit and creativity used to take an idea from hobby to real achievement and also the thought process of how we prioritize our time. As a creative thinker, it means improving my writing product while learning new marketing strategies.
Here are a couple articles to keep the conversation going:
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Book Review: Smart Like How

A few months ago, I read a book on career development called, “Smart Like How.” Unlike other books on management, entrepreneurship or business, “Smart Like How” fundamentally challenges traditional assumptions on how to advance in the workforce. The author recognized that people who accelerate through the first stages of their career, are excellent at creating opportunities for themselves, among other things. But how do they do it? He breaks out subtle skills that speed up the process of moving up for people just starting out in their careers.
I truly believe if you read but one book on career advice, it should be this one.
Here are a few tidbits of its contrarian career advice.
Stuff they Didn’t Tell you in College
Be a smart consumer of education. Too many of my friends simply followed the herd to grad school with no clear choice of career or the financial impact of student loans on their future lifestyle. Given the high opportunity cost of higher education, I truly believe there are alternative routes to further one’s career.
Schools offer two core services:
  1. Providing you with knowledge
  2. Certifying that you learned something
It is key to understand the value of certification versus knowledge.
When knowledge is most important:
If you are looking to advance your role by taking on new knowledge, certification matters less.
When certification trumps knowledge:
If you’re part of the product (i.e. selling yourself or credentials), certification and school brand matters more. (e.g. my financial advisor graduated from Harvard).
Bottom line – approach education like any business decision and don’t let vanity get in the way. Track record is the ultimate certification, “Jenny closed a six-figure deal,” trumps, “Amy has an MBA from Stanford.”
Hard Work Paradox
The hard work paradox states that even extreme effort and sacrifice is not enough to guarantee career success and how differentiating yourself from the get-go works.
The Hard Work Paradox acknowledge two truths about professional life:
  1. There is a finite limit to how much you can possibly work.
  2. People who work really hard gravitate toward industries, then companies, and ultimately teams where everyone else works really hard too, ultimately diminishing their ability to set themselves apart from their peers.
Takeaway – professional advancement can ultimately be determined by quality of work, making the organization better, and getting authority figures to entrust you with some power and responsibility of your own.
Developing a Positioning Map
A positioning map is a simple mental exercise of understanding the competitive landscape of your company, it’s industry and your competitive advantage within it. A positioning map is more than simply the company’s elevator pitch, but doesn’t need to be the bottom of the ocean either. All you need is an understanding of your company and its place in the industry today. The positioning map could be more than a comparison of different companies, but deeper picture into service or product lines, market share and in-demand tools/skills utilized for each. Distilling the challenges of your current company within a competitive landscape allows you to be able to think seriously about tough, subjective decisions that business owners are grappling within right now.
After understanding why a position is valuable and intentionally structured within an organization, it becomes easier to then as an employee, to layout a roadmap for how to implement the vision.
Additionally, most people don’t know how to use data to implement their vision. If you’ve been working a while and trying to find something out, there’s a good chance someone else probably asked the same questions at some point. The data is likely there, but there’s a good chance that it is just sitting idle with no real reason for why the data is being collected other than to be reported at yearend or within board meetings. Valuable information can be found in CRM systems, market research reports, internal presentations, online reviews of a product or custom satisfaction surveys. Often useful information is not used to improve a business simply because it gets lost in the shuffle in an inconvenient format.
Persuasion and Adoption of Ideas to Prove your Value Proposition
Ideas need to be more than just interesting to be heard by the right people. Here are 6 steps for driving acceptance of your message within an organization.
  1. Step Back – There’s no excuse or subsititute for doing your homework. Anticipate objections and make your idea easy to swallow based on the audience.
  2. Put it in Writing –  Jeff Bezos is famous for requiring senior managers to present ideas in six-page memos that the team reads in silence to start meetings. Writing forces you to sharpen your thoughts. For Bezos, “Full sentences are harder to write. There is no way to write a six-page memo and not have clear thinking.”
  3. Identify Stakeholders – Figure out the first person who needs to be on board from the start and will provide good input. This makes the iteration process easier.
  4. Chose the Right Format – Every person processes information differently. Having a mixture of visuals, reading and a verbal presentation ensures a broad array of people will absorb the information.
  5. Engage in Person – Work a little harder to make a memorable impression. Follow-up over different mediums. Just had an in-person meeting? Follow-up with a phone call or email, etc.
  6. Secure Next Steps – Always take ownership of the next steps and seek to control the momentum.
Work is a Means of Fulfillment 
Finally, Smart Like How comes out and dispels the elephant in the room – the fact that we, in a modern society tie up a significant portion of our identity in our jobs. The fact that it is nearly impossible to go ten minutes into a conversation with a stranger without asking each other what our job is shows the weight we attach to work. That’s fine, until you consider that many of us aren’t in the jobs that we really want to be in and nearly half are still grappling with uncertainty around what the right job would be.
Considering that we spend approximately 2,0000 hours per year tied up in our work, should we really spend that time sub-optimally (i.e. not fully utilized or in work that we are apathetic about)?
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