Change Management Tactics – How to influence by Social proof

Do you know why comedy shows play recorded laughter (HaHaHa…)? Why clubs create long waiting lines outside their venue? Why media do not report suicide incidents? Why we do fake laughing in-group, even we don’t find anything amusing.

Well, all the above questions looks very different. However, one phenomenon explains all of them. That is Social proof.

Social proof is psychological phenomenon where in ambiguous social situations people assume actions of others as correct behaviour. So, when we are not too sure, we tend to follow others.

That is why we often laugh when we hear recorded laughter in comedy shows. When we are not sure, we queue up in front of club that has longest line. Records show, suicide rates doubles in the community where suicide news was published. When we are not sure, we do fake laughing. It is amazing! Isn’t it?

Other aspect to Social proof is that people tend to follow based on similarities. So, we tend to follow people that are similar to us.

This phenomenon is so powerful that people not only follow others but also think that they are doing the right thing.

I am following....
I am following….

So, how we use concept of Social proof in Change management?

Interestingly, people undergoing change fits well to conditions of Social proof:

  • Uncertainty/Ambiguity:  Before change is actually rolled-out to business, there is general uncertainty and ambiguity. Employees are not sure what is going to happen with their role and responsibilities. There are not sure how change will affect them.
  • Following similar person: In this uncertainly, generally employees will tend to follow other employees. So, Administrators will follow other Administrators and Managers will follow other Managers and so on.

So, there is great opportunity for Change manager. Firstly, Change manager should aim to embed correct behaviours in target group. Secondly, make this target group so popular that it becomes role model for others.

Let’s see how:

  1. Break-up – Big-bang organisational changes are recipe for disaster. So, if possible, break-up change implementation sites into logical groups.
  2. Select your pilot site carefully – It is very important. Select site with least expected resistance for change, where resources are readily available and management have a good influence.
  3. Put everything to ensure success – Ensure that project team, management and project sponsor are fully committed to pilot site. As a Change Manager, you want to see that project team is holding hands of employees undergoing change. There is full business engagement in Training and support activities. Your aim is to see happy faces and wonderful testimonials at the end of pilot.
  4. Selling time – After successful pilot, you are going to create followers. Note that there are people out there in business who are uncertain about change you are implementing. So, help them follow success that you have created. Take pictures, record videos and testimonials from employees that have undergone change. Spread-out happy message across the organisation. Use appropriate tools intranet, email, social media etc. Wait for magic to happen! Make sure you have testimonials from range of different job roles. Don’t forget the similarity rule of Social proof.
  5. Time to build momentum – Next step is to build momentum. Replicate success on the subsequent implementations. Jim Collins call this phenomenon as moving a flywheel.
  6. Maintain momentum and pace – Maintain momentum and steady pace to implement change across business.

Now it is your turn! Knowingly or unknowingly, what Social proof techniques you have applied previously? What were the results?

I am looking forward to your comments.

It you like the post, please share with your network.


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

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