Influence – Ask and You Shall Receive?

Head with People and IconsAn exciting new metric, “Influence”, is making its way into the enterprise market. While most influence research has been applied to the internet at large, it is tempting to apply this concept to interactions inside of a company. In our knowledge-based economy, it only makes sense to capitalize on this flow of knowledge.

For the sake of this article, let’s put aside concerns about the reliability, stability and completeness of these metrics. And, we will also put aside the privacy concerns. Let’s assume for the moment that these numbers do reliably show the information impact of an individual on their enterprise. Let’s even say that we print this number in large print next to each person’s picture on their home page – in fact we have already seen (numerous) software systems doing this.

Steve Denning, the influencer, said famously that “what gets measured gets done”. If we ask our employees to influence, and hire based on stellar extracurricular influence, then we shall receive the activities that we call influence. Is this what we want? Really?

There is no proven connection between business performance and influence. There are many kinds of people, in many roles in an organization. For example, is influence as important in Accounting as it is in Marketing or Sales or Development or Manufacturing? Doubtful.

Is the person who posts about free food in the kitchen really more important than the quiet analysts in the corner, or the sales rep who spends all day on the phone calling leads? Perhaps there is a sweet spot for each role, and even different kinds of people.

You will find well over four million web hits for “klout cheat game”. The flip side of Denning’s statement is that people will finesse, adjust, and cheat to increase that influence number. And, I guarantee almost none of the time they spend doing so will be productive for anything but that number. There will be a cottage industry of “influence consultants” to help workers increase their scores and rise in the company, just as there is already a huge SEO industry now built around the nuances of a few major search engines.

It is easy to predict that when influence is pushed as a pathway to enterprise success, certain activities will be promoted. It will become common to ask people to “like” your email or post. People will litter their messages with keywords and tags. Of course, some will write and share some excellent content, too. It remains to be seen if any real work will get done in the middle of this information-fest.

This is an area rife with unintended consequences. It entirely depends on how the influence number is used. We can’t have one number for everything. And ultimately, this is my message. It seems obvious, but as humans, we keep returning to the idea over and over again. There is no silver bullet.

Greta “Please click ‘Like’ on my article” Roberts

Originally published by the International Institute for Analytics

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  • Henner Schliebs

    Hi Greta, great article (as expected from you)! If you consider that a young gentleman named Justin Beaver (think only female teens know who that is….) is leading the pack on Klout, I could not agree more to your post.
    Maybe there is a way to measure the contacts of a role along the value chain of the company? A marketing guy should know customers, analysts, influencers, but also internally the sales guys, presales and technical development, product owners and services guys and so on. Even operations and finance are important contacts to better do the job. If a marketing person knows “her/his” value chain I am pretty sure it would result in better results than as if (s)he was a lonely wolf…..