The idea of influence mapping has been around for a long time.
In the late 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram set out to discover how connected the world was. He handed out “information packets” in Nebraska and Kansas and tested how long the packets would take to reach a specific person in Boston, Massachusetts. The participants sent the packages to people they knew on a first-name basis. If the next person knew the intended recipient personally, they sent the packet to its final destination. If not, they chose one of their contacts to get the package ‘closer’ to the end recipient. Some packets reached their destination in as few as two hops. Others took far longer or never arrived at all. However, those which arrived did so in an average of 5.5 hops. This led to the now-familiar idea of “six degrees of separation.”
Influence in Your Organization
Remember those kids in high school? There was a guy who always knew where the party was. Maybe one girl knew how to get your schedule changed. Then there was that kid the teachers always called in when trying to find out who did what. They didn’t have superlatives in the yearbook, they weren’t student body president or prom king, but they had a certain influence over people.
Those kids still exist in your organization today. Have you ever thought about how information flows within your organization? We’ve learned that just because someone has “manager” in their title doesn’t mean that they are the person everyone goes to for informal communications. There are people who, no matter what their official job title is, help keep your office together and running smoothly. Finding out who those people are is an important step for change management and for employee engagement.
How to Determine Influence in Your Organization
This is where social network analysis, or influence mapping, comes in. In social network analysis, we visually chart networks by tracking the engagement of people. The analysis can be used to map increases in social capital or connectedness, information or workload flow, or decision-making processes. You can then use this information to make sure that your message is getting where it needs to go. You can also work to ensure that your most valuable and influential employees remain engaged in your workplace.
How We Do Influence Mapping
At Brighter Strategies, we have tools that help us determine who the influencers are in your organization. We talk to people, survey them, and trace the patterns you might not see yourself. If your organization is undergoing a change in strategy, technology, staffing, or mission, you may want to start with an influence mapping process.