Invisible Influence – Jonah Berger

In a follow up to his best seller, Contagious, Jonah Berger delivers an in depth review of data demonstrating the unseen forces at play in each person’s thoughts and actions. While the book delves into behavioral and social psychology concepts such as moderate dis-similarity and social facilitation, it does so with sufficient illustration and simplicity that those most unfamiliar with the concepts will find them beneficial and applicable. In the final pages, Berger summarizes the purpose and value of the work in saying that “influence is a tool like any other. If we understand it, we don’t have to stand passively by and just watch it happen. We can use it.”

Perhaps the most practical topics addressed relate to the unconscious human tendency toward mimicry. Berger uses scientific studies to demonstrate to leaders that the best way to promote the adoption of ideal behaviors is to model them. This is why the parent who joyfully eats his/her own broccoli will be more effective at convincing a child to do the same. The concept also has important implications for education and corporate training as it demonstrates that role models and mentors will be more effective than textbooks and lectures.

On a related topic to mimicry, Invisible Influence explores the idea that identifying characteristics lead people to assume that someone is like themselves or “of the same tribe.” The more that a person relates to another, the more likely he/she is to be influenced by that person. One startling proof of this concept is laid out in a study showing that customers were five times more likely to make a purchase when a salesperson subtly mimicked the mannerisms of the potential buyer. Those looking for marketing best practices should be aware of this and position their product or idea as something that people similar to the target audience have or believe.

Invisible Influence also has important concepts for those looking to help others succeed. Those responsible for setting individual and team goals, for example, will appreciate this book’s insights regarding motivation and achievability. In examining the likelihood of victory based on a basketball score at halftime, Berger is able to demonstrate that the most motivating situations are those where victory is attainable but not automatic. Further studies show that learning complex new concepts is best done in private while improving on familiar tasks can be achieved far more effectively in the presence of others.

Readers who appreciate the presentation of data driven principles will enjoy Jonah Berger’s latest work. It is a good starting point for those seeking a greater understanding of team dynamics and individual decisions. For those who enjoyed the Freakonomics series or The 7 Triggers to YesInvisible Influence is a must read.

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