Stories like those from the Arab Spring featuring Egypt's remarkable transformation points to the unprecedented shifts in the landscape of influence. These are stories of grassroots networks imploding old power structures made irrelevant by their isolation. The lessons here are that when self-organizing networks get stronger, old autocratic power structures weaken because, as the data suggests, they only have power to the degree they keep networks divided.
Influence networks were the incubators of Civil Rights, the Berlin Wall, Ireland, South Africa, and Egypt. Each is a story of small scale core groups of connected people with a compelling message and indefatigable passion grew influence in networks that transformed the landscape of power and possibility.
When we build and connect influence networks, people become more aligned and less easily weakened by division. The impossible becomes possible when people are connected in their dreams and gifts, connections and actions.
The social network sciences have become a rich and amazing source of data based validation and hope for social networks. We can intentionally and strategically grow them. And to the degree that we don't have formal power and cannot buy relationships to formal power, we grow our influence at the rate we grow our networks. In the new world of networks, influence can be grown more sustainably than it can be purchased.
The business case for growing influence networks using the principles of the social network sciences is clear and compelling. The principles work whether we are striving to influence choices, habits, votes, opinions, proposals, or adapting to change.
Start with the fact that people are influenced by people with whom they have resonance and trust. Resonance is feeling like we have something in common. Resonance builds through the sharing of stories that connect us. Trust is having a relationship of reciprocity with someone.
Contrary to media and marketing deceptions, people aren't influenced by spam media, the seduction of ads, hype, charts and spreadsheets, or the allure of popular opinion. They "catch" the perspectives of people like them and people they like. They're influenced through their connections. People buy and believe what their resonant and trust significant others buy and believe. It's been this way for a very long time and the legacy of this dynamic appears to have a bright future.
In every network, everyone has some quality of influence on other people. Influence potential is a function of three variables: visibility, credibility, and currencies.
Visibility is how many other influencers someone knows and how many know them. Credibility is how well someone is known for being resonant and trustworthy in what they say and do. Currencies are the kinds of value someone has to offer others in the network. Value includes tangibles and intangibles like data, knowledge, expertise, questions, talents, access to resources, positional power, followers, allies, and incentives.
Some people only have influence with their small circle of people. Some people have wider influence across different parts of the network. Some people have influence that spans across multiple networks.
There are several basic ways we can build and grow influence networks. It starts with being clear on what we want people to know, feel, and do as the result of our influence. It's identifying who in the network has strong influence through visibility, credibility, and currencies. Then it's identifying which of these people have the highest receptivity.
Influence receptivity is relative openness to learning or considering more than what one already has concluded. Someone is receptive when their mind isn't yet fully made up. The scope of our influence in a network is equal to the scope of people who haven't made up their minds relative to what we want to influence.
Assessing receptivity can happen indirectly through talking to others who know the thinking of those we want to influence. It can also happen directly by asking those we want go influence whether they are still considering things in any way. If they still have unanswered questions, optimism for further options, or doubts about current dominant opinions, they are receptive to influence.
We can help lower visibility people with good credibility and currencies become more visible. We can introduce them to more people, help them expand their virtual presence, get them more engaged in the network's collaborations.
We can connect people with higher influence potential with other people with higher influence potential. We can do this through quality introductions and collaborations.
We can help people become more engaged as connectors, connecting people of higher influence potentials. This means helping them learn how to notice opportunities, make quality introductions, and help people identify collaboration possibilities.
Helping people increase their visibility, connectivity, and engagement is usually easier than help them increase the personal givens of credibility and currencies.
When we help people become more visible, connected, and connectors, influence networks grow. No amount of threats or infusions of resources in networks can ever substitute for these strategies. No amount of top-down power brokering or power wielding can substitute for these strategies.
When we use the principles of the social network sciences, we build influence in networks, we can scale and accelerate our learning and the possibilities of alignment.