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The Science of Persuasion for Greater Collaboration

In my last blog,  A Perfect Collaboration According To The “Esquire Guy”,  I talked about the importance of who we collaborate with and how we collaborate with them.  Collaboration is leveraging sources of expertise to help in a decision making process. In some cases, you’re going to be in need of expertise that will come from a knowledge base or identified people.  In other cases, you’re going to be defined as the expert and your opinion will be counted on during the collaborative process.  Either way, you’re going to need to persuade the people you’re collaborating with.

If you’re heading up or part of a collaborative effort and you require expertise, you’ll need to persuade those experts to give up some of their time and put forth effort to support you in your endeavors.

On the other hand, if you’ve been identified as somebody with expertise there’s a good chance others in the collaborative group will have differing opinions and you’ll need to persuade them toward the validity of your advice.

In this short video “Secrets From the Science of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, six universal principles or shortcuts are discussed.  Let’s take a look at these six principles and how they relate to collaboration:

  1. Reciprocity: The obligation to give when you receive, a mutual exchange.   If you’re trying to persuade somebody to join in your collaborative effort, what do you give them to ensure reciprocity?  The best “gift” would be your time and effort in support of one of their collaborative endeavors.  If that opportunity doesn’t present itself instead of sending an e-mail or calling to ask them to lend their expertise, invite them out for a cup of coffee and surprise them by picking up the tab

  2. Scarcity: This speaks to supply and demand.  The more demand for something that’s short of supply, the more perceived value it has.  By their nature, collaborative efforts are designed to conclude at some point and the benefits associated with participation end with them. It’s important to show what’s unique to the effort — networking with new people, visibility to higher-level executives, or game changing direction for the company to name a few examples.  Also, what stands to be lost by not participating, consider their MBOs or perhaps a bonus based on the results.

  3. Authority: People follow credible and knowledgeable experts, if you are considered an expert you’ll have an easier time persuading others to join your collaborative efforts.  Establish credibility through participation in department meetings and other virtual teams.  You can find many external blogs and discussion threads that will further enhance your level of credibility.  An executive sponsor for the collaborative effort will lend authority to the results and drive the team.

  4. Consistency: The commitment across groups to influence others and align to a common goal.  Morten Hansen stresses the need for a unifying goal in his book “Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results“.  The goal should be defined at the very beginning of any collaborative effort.  There may even be a smaller collaborative effort beforehand to define the goal.  The goal must be specific enough that everybody is aligned toward it, but general enough to allow flexibility in getting there.

  5. Liking: People who like each other work better together.  You want team members who feel open to suggesting ideas in a group without concern.  You want participants to challenge ideas based on merit and not personality conflicts.  Hold a kick-off meeting and have participants present answers to these questions:
    • Why are you part of this team?
    • What relevant experience and expertise do you bring to the team?
    • What do you see as the goal of this collaborative effort?
    • How does this effort relate to your personal and professional goals?
    • Is there anything that may interfere with your participation on the team and impede you from delivering action item commitments?
  6. Consensus: People look to others to determine their own actions.  This does not mean you should build a team of participants that agree with each other, but rather you want a level of healthy debate that results in teamwork to reach consensus.  Agree on the scope of the effort and stay within those boundaries.  As a group, elect a moderator to table tangential discussions that go “down the rathole“.  Use common methods of communications: meetings, workspace, video, in person, etc. during the course of the collaborative effort.

The “Secrets From the Science of Persuasion” video offers many validated statistics to demonstrate the results of each shortcut.  As you pull together a team of experts to better your business, keep in mind the different persuasive techniques and how to employ them to reach a perfect collaboration.  Do so in an ethical manner and the results of your efforts will be rewarding.  Not just to you personally and professionally, but also to those that are associated with you.

What are the hurdles you have to cross when trying to be collaborative?  What successes have you have had in bringing together different people in a collaborative effort?

John

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