CAD Management: Influenza – Una Parte

In Italian, the title of this month's column means "Influence – Part One." Upon reading this, I'll bet many of you first thought of the H1N1 virus or seasonal flu. Well, I'm not the right person to discuss the flu, but I do have some ideas about influence.

Exerting influence is what a CAD manager must do. CAD managers need to influence the way processes are done, which products are purchased, and the people who use them.

Influential people exist in every area of your life. Your parents, your boss, your friends, your spouse... the list could go on forever. They influence your mood, methods, manners, and more. Whether or not they know it, they are influencing the way you behave, the decisions you make, and even the things you think.

Influence comes from many people - those with whom you interact and those who do it from a distance. Marketing, for example, is all about influence. Everyone who wants to sell you something tries to persuade you to make a purchase.

In the musical stage play and movie, "The Music Man," Professor Harold Hill trumps up a concern about how playing billiards will corrupt the town of River City, Iowa. The answer to this concern was the creation of a marching band with "76 trombones." It just so happens that Professor Hill sells the instruments, uniforms, and instructions that will create this band. How convenient...

Some marketing firms think that single individuals have a great amount of influence on strangers. If they can find the single most influential person in an industry, they can move great masses of people. That feel that Hollywood stars or sports heroes can turn a flop into a fortune. But a study discussed in the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review negates the perspective of a single person moving large groups.

Duncan Watts, professor of sociology at Columbia University, and Peter Dodds found that influence is more related to closer relationships where the parties influence each other on a much smaller scale. The concept of Six Degrees of Separation, where one person is linked to everyone on the planet through a series of connections that are only six persons deep, is much more active than you might think.

The concept that Watts and Dodds postulate is that we are mostly influenced by those in a very small circle of interactions. They call it "global cascades," in which influence is derived from our existing networks of people. We are connected to people we trust and we trust their suggestions, recommendations, and advice. We grant them influence.

The authors further point out that no one person can dominate your network. The influence that appears to happens in our lives moves from one person to another, then to another and then to another. It changes based on topic, personal characteristics, expertise, and circumstances.

Watts and Dodds conclude their article with these words, "Marketing dollars might better be directed toward helping large numbers of ordinary people – possibly with web-based social networking tools – to reach and influence other just like them." Kind of sounds like AUGI, doesn't it?

Anyway, back to my topic. Influence is something that CAD managers must have in order to get things moving in the direction they have mapped out. Call it leadership or management, but either way – it is influence.

CAD managers should be at the center of the "influence network" surrounding CAD in their offices.

In the classic book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he states what now are fairly common perspectives.

Here are a few items from the book. It is well worth the read. Some items may seem outdated, but they scale well. This book, while old, is never out of date.

  • Never criticize, condemn or complain.
  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Make the other person feel important.
  • Use the person's name whenever possible.
  • Smile – it always helps.
  • Call attention to people's errors indirectly.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Get the other person saying "yes, yes" as soon as possible.
  • Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking when they complain.
  • Be sympathetic.
  • Respect others' opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Frame requests in terms of what others find motivating.

More on influence in next month's column.

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