How We Reach Decisions – Then Become Entrenched In Positions

Rising Above the Industrial Revolution

Image by James Clayton via Flickr

We all exist in networks of people. Before the industrial revolution they were close knit and very local. Fast forward through the industrial revolution and the ability to travel far and fast and into the digital era and we all have complex and vast networks of connections.

All of those connections have influence on our decision making. Some of the connections, such as the media we consume, has an inordinate influence on our decision making considering the fact that unlike our real world friends it is not there to help us when we have needs, but it is there to tell us how we should act – who we should vote for, what TV we should buy and where we should buy it etc.

The power of that influence is what has driven the value of the 30 second ad. As the highly individualized opportunity to influence afforded by targeted ads has emerged over the last dozen or so years, both the level of influence and the value of ads has changed markedly. But what about the value of the personal physical and direct connection?

This is the Trust Network – the people who you know in the real world, even if you don’t meet with them in person every day. These are the people who influence your views and the positions that you take even when they don’t realize it – and it all starts with them influencing your view about them.

A couple of cases in point:

I had a meeting with a company last week that wants to build up its marketing presence. They believe that they should be doing this online. This all sounds pretty straightforward. Then what is revealed is that the CFO of the parent company will not allow the company to undertake any internet banking. Sounds remarkable in this day and age, but it is true. So what we find is that the job that is required is not as much about developing a marketing campaign for the company, as it is about developing a management solution for the company so that the guys that want to build their business unit can actually get internal approvals to operate.

The one thing that makes even taking on a challenge of this kind is that I know one of the guys that wants to build the business and I trust him. I trust him enough to be prepared to try to help him tackle the problem that he has – even if the rewards are dubious at best…

Here is another.

I am working on a business development project for a start up. It is a highly technical proposition that really needs reference customers in place in order to validate the technology and indeed to enable detailed specifications for the technology to be developed. There is a potential client, but the client understands very well the value that they bring and the potential disruptive impact of the technology in the marketplace. As a result the client wants to insure against the risk that the technology may become available to its competitors. The simple solution might be to roll over and give them a piece of the IP. The problem with that though is that it will reduce significantly the ability to get investors into the company at this stage.

Of course this is one of those conundrums in which the elements of trust that need to be created also need to transcend the distance between the respective lawyers’ views and their motivation to invest the time into developing appropriate language that will give both sides a belief that they can trust the other. In this case, the one thing that will absolutely bring this deal undone, is to purely rely on the lawyers to solve the problem. With all respect to the lawyers in the room, their role in this instance is to protect their clients from risk, and the easiest way to do that is to make sure that the intent of an agreement is represented succinctly and simply. That means establishing and holding the line and not blinking.

But even the lawyers are influenced. So the job here has been to try to ensure that the individuals in the game increase their personal emotional stakes in the negotiations. These can help soften the harder voices in the room and prevent people from becoming entrenched in their decisions. I have some solutions for this that are very folksy and down home that have worked in the past, and will hopefully work in this case that help build personal trust.

Example: I built a very strong trust network in Japan at one point by the very simple process of gift giving. Every time I flew to Japan – which was roughly every 2 months at that time – I would take two cases of Australian wine with me, and then give bottles to pretty much every business contact who I met. I did this absolutely out of friendship and not to win any business contract. However the philosophy led to trust being built, and along with that trust, friendship, and along with these two ingredients, the willingness and interest in doing business.

The moral of the story is that the way to get business done is to build relationships that are absolutely not about business. Relationships that are about trust and a feeling that you can give something to the other without expecting anything in return.

All that finally leads me to the case of a student and an interaction he had with someone outside of the university. This came up yesterday. The student is working on a project and needed some information from the exterior party. The information wasn’t forthcoming, and granted, the outside person dropped the ball. The student got very uptight about the fact that he was doing work that would be valuable to the outside person and that therefore the outside person should co-operate and do things on the student’s timetable. The reality is that no one runs to the timetable of someone on the outside. To expect it is to be delusional. To get upset by it shows a weakness of character that can severely dent your ability to succeed.

When I act as the “marketing whisperer” for companies, a very important component of my time is spent in helping clients understand how small localized decisions can have vast ramifications with regard to future profitability, and that those decisions are not about how much media you buy.

Rather it is about how much trust can you build so that the entrenched decision making is in your favour rather than against you.



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