Influence - Ask and You Shall Receive?

By Greta Roberts, Oct 19, 2012

An 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.

About the author

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Greta Roberts is the CEO of Talent Analytics, Corp and a faculty member at the International Institute for Analytics. Her mission is to extend the use of analytics and technology, for understanding and placing employees in roles where they are predicted to perform.She has 20+ years working for world-class technology innovators like Lotus, Netscape, WebLine, Cisco and Open Ratings. Under her leadership Talent Analytics has developed the world’s first talent analytics platform for analytically measuring raw talent in candidates and employees. In 2012, she led a research Team with the International Institute for Analytics that resulted in the world’s only Benchmark for hiring Analytics Professionals.Greta is a sought-out thought leader, presenter, and author. In 2013, she has spoken or will speak at the Predictive Analytics World events around North America, SAS Day at Kennesaw State, SAP’s Game-Changers Radio Show, SAP Sapphire NOW, IIA’s Chief Analytics Officer Summit & other major analytics & business events. Greta has recently been quoted in MIT Sloan Management Review, Forbes, VentureBeat, Information Management, Computerworld, Data Informed, Tech Target, and many other major influential publications. Greta has also been published in the Harvard Business Review blog network. Follow Greta on twitter @GretaRoberts.