As soon as I arrived at the conference venue, I was welcomed by a lady in charge of VIP and speakers. She seemed happy to see me & asked me enthusiastically if I knew in which seminar room my talk would take place. “Yes. Seminar room 3 & it is tomorrow” I said. “Great! I am now taking you to the VIP/Speakers lounge so that you can eat or drink something,” she added. One part of me longed for breakfast in the lounge. The other half of mine responded: “Thank you. Actually I would like to directly go to the keynote area to listen to the keynote talk.”
On the stage was Daniel Pink, the New York Times bestseller author of Drive and one of the most-watched TED speakers in the world. He started his keynote talk titled “How small wins can transform your organisation” with a slide showing “2-3-5”. His talk was structured around sharing 2 insights, 3 principles and 5 actionable takeaways. He immediately went into the topic.
Insight 1: Pink’s research involving seven thousand participants shows that we spend around 40% of our time selling an idea, project, etc. “What percentage of our work involves persuading people to give up something they value for something we offer?” was Pink’s question to the audience. Many people replied to the question on their mobile phones using the sli.do website. Pink later stated: “Selling has a bad image. It is seen as an aggressive activity. Actually, selling has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 100 years”
Insight 2: We are all in the influence business and we do it in a world of information parity. Throughout human civilisation, sellers had much more information than buyers. This has created information asymmetry. Currently, there is less information asymmetry meaning buyers have more information. If we assume recruiters as sellers and job candidates as buyers, job candidates have now access to a lot of information on glassdoor about their potential employers. We are moving from information asymmetry to information parity.
Pink continued the talk with three principles namely “ABC principle” which represent the first letters of each principle.
Principle 1: Attunement: This is about perspective-taking. That is, seeing issues from someone else’s point of view. Most of us are not good at this.
Principle 2: Buoyancy: It is the ability to flow. “How to say afloat in the ocean of rejection?” is the main question here.
Principle 3: Clarity: This is related to information. Previously, expertise used to come from accessing information. Nowadays, the cornerstone of any expertise is curating information and making sense of information. Problem-solving is an old approach. The new one is problem finding. “How can we anticipate problems before they appear?”
Actionable takeaways part of Pink’s talk was a collection of points supported by scientific research.
Actionable takeaway 1: Leadership depends on perspective-taking. Power distorts that. According to a study, people with feelings of high power are three times less likely to consider the perspectives of others than people with feelings of low power. The more powerful we are, the worse we can be at perspective-taking. This is the biggest mistake leaders make. "We can increase our effectiveness by briefly reducing our feelings of power" was the key message of this takeaway.
Actionable takeaway 2: When persuading upwards, such as your boss, use arguments for both head & heart but focus mainly on thoughts & interests. Research on negotiation had 3 groups: a control group, a group focusing on thoughts & a group focusing on feelings of their counterparts. The group focusing on the thoughts of their counterparts outperformed others. While persuading upwards, focus on the thoughts and interests of your boss. “What is it in it for the boss to accept it?” was the question of Pink.
Actionable takeaway 3: To persuade effectively, don’t be a strong extrovert. A research conducted by Salesforce found very little connection between extroversion and sales results. Here are the respective sales numbers of extroverts, introverts and ambiverts who are combination of extroverts & introverts, 125 US dollars, 120 US dollars & 155 US dollars. Strong extrovert sellers might talk all the time during sales and not listen to buyers at all. Likewise, strong introverts might not form the connection with their buyers necessary to close deals. Ambiverts, on the other hand, have a good balance of when to talk and not. This way, they are the most successful ones.
Actionable takeaway 4: Bring social proof to convince others. Pink gave details of a study done at a hotel in an effort to encourage hotel guests to reuse towels. As the hotel changed its message to guests including more information on how other hotel guests reuse towels, the percentage of people reusing towels improved significantly.
Actionable takeaway 5: Context drives behaviour more than personality. Change context to make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. In this last takeaway, Pink talked about the messaging of a student group to get donations. When students sent out a general letter asking for a donation, they did not have much success. After customising each and every letter, they managed to secure significantly more donations.
To conclude his talk, Pink emphasised that organisations do not change through moonshot or big goals. Change happens when a person starts doing something, it works and spreads around the organisation. “Take one of the ideas in this talk & go, make a change in your organisation” were the final words of Dan Pink, who released this year his newest book "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing".
On that day I arrived to Dubai at 3 o'clock in the morning. It was November 13th last year. After sleeping only 5 hours & without having breakfast, I rushed to this world-class conference HR Summit & Expo (HRSE) to attend Daniel Pink’s keynote talk. Normally with a 5-hour sleep I would not function well. On that day, however, I stayed all day long in the conference HRSE meticulously organised by Hoda Nagah, Nina Asenova and the whole exceptional team of Informa. When I left the conference venue in the evening & looked up the fascinating skyscrapers around me, feelings of excitement & positive energy were all around me. I was ready for my talk at HRSE on the next day.
This article was originally posted on The HR Observer.
Mehmet Baha is Founder of Solution Folder which provides training solutions to make organisations more collaborative and Agile. He has more than 18 years of work experience residing in Germany, USA, Turkey, Cyprus and Ireland. He was one of the first employees of Facebook in Europe where he helped Facebook scale its business. He is also a REMO-endorsed artist. Combining his skills in music and his expertise in business, he designs and delivers unique learning experiences.