Saturday, January 27, 2007

Individual Influence in Changing Behaviors

In trying to influence others to begin to use technologies, we assume that if we state all the wonderful uses and how the new technologies are better than the current technologies that the potential adopters will adopt the technology just because we say it is a good idea.

My adoption of blogging is only an example of how invoking change is most effective when suggested in one-to-one discussion. This is only my third blog entry. I could have adopted blogging much sooner, but did not. I have known about blogging for many years now and knew it could be useful and easy, but I chose not to blog for fear of criticisms and potentially offended someone. Some researchers say this is a lack of blogging self-efficacy. It was through an individual conversation and a simple statement that helped push me over the stage of contemplation to the stage of preparation.

In organizations, we naively expect adoption will occur by announcing and explaining new technologies to the masses via email, blogs, web and video conferences, and in meetings. Only a small percentage of the individuals in our organization will adopt a new technology after the first announcement.

We've been able to have much better success in changing individuals' perceptions and moving them toward adoption by working with individually working with potential adopters. In one example, while on the phone with a field staff member, Wayne, I mentioned a new technology that he might find useful. Yes, he had read the global email mentioning the technology. But, it was not until a discussion about how the technology could help him personally did he start to consider adopting the technology. He accepted my descriptions of benefits that would be applicable to him.

Mass announcements are really good for introducing change. But these mass communications cannot accomplish what individual encouragement and targeting can do. Prochaska calls this matching the processes to stage to the stage of change which the individual is in. Individual encouragement works best between parties where trust, credibility, and comfortableness exist. Throughout the last 20 years, I have helped Wayne develop technology solutions and have answered support questions. Throughout these years, we built a positive working relationship. Although he could call the helpdesk for answers to most of his questions, he continues to call me. Why? He trusts my judgment and he knows that I know what is important technology is important to him.

After I explain the benefits of the new technology, Wayne decides to try it. He said, "You have never led me astray. Throughout the years, when you said I need to try a new tool, and I tried, it has always been the right decision." This comment is an indication of trust and credibility. I have a proven track-record of success with him. Credibility of the encourager helps the individual make the decision to adopt new technology.

In hard sells, the face-to-face meetings seem to have a better effect on technology adoption. The mass communications are good for introducing a new technology, but individual communications are much more effective at moving individuals toward adoption. This works because individuals within the organization begin to encourage others with an effective ripple of diffusion.

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