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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Influencer by Kerry Patterson, et. al.

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-07-148499-2

This book purports to provide a method by which you can change the world, or at least, yourself. It claims to be that lever Archimedes so famously postulated, long enough to shift the entire earth. Is it? I'm not sure. At the end, it all seems to come down still, to talk. Just find the right words, and you can persuade people.

It's a lot more complicated than that, of course. There are six sources of influence which you must master. None of them work alone. All of them are essential to the process. The six elements are presented grid fashion, in two rows of three each.


  • Make the undesirable desirable
  • Harness peer pressure
  • Design rewards & demand accountability


  • Surpass your limits
  • Find strength in numbers
  • Change the environment
The three cross patterns are:
  • Personal
  • Social
  • Structural

In other words, the first item under each of the original two categories, motivation and ability, fits under the personal category, while the next item on each list fits under social, and the final item on each list fits under structural.

The book's many authors tell many stories about masters of this process who have changed entire cultures and made enormous improvements in people's lives. Some examples: eradicating the Guinea worm in Africa (Dr. Donald Hopkins and The Carter Center); helping addicts turn their lives around (Dr. Mimi Silver and the Delancey Street Foundation), preventing HIV infections (Thailand), enhancing literacy in Mexico and elsewhere (TV producer Miguel Sabido), and many more.

Unfortunately, even after reading the book, I had difficulty in seeing how I could (or would) apply its principles to any of the real-world situations in my particular job. I've never been much of a believer in business solution type self-help books, and this one left me unconvinced also. I'm just not much of a “believer,” period. I'm a skeptic. An optimistic skeptic. Now there's a contradiction in terms, for you! But then, I'm also a Libra. A Libra who doesn't believe in astrology. Another contradiction!

The governor of our great state of Washington, Christine Gregoire, was apparently so impressed by this book that she gave out free copies to everyone who attended one of her leadership seminars. That's how I heard about the book, as one of my co-workers attended.

I could also never figure out if this system was supposed to be about changing your own life (like losing weight, or adopting a more healthy lifestyle), or about changing masses of people (like the examples I cited above). Supposedly it's about both, but I never could quite figure out how that works. It may well be that these techniques really do work, but the system is still too complicated for me. Marginally recommended for anyone who needs to change the world. Or themselves.

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