03/12/2014 11:25 am ET Updated May 12, 2014

The Singularity of Organization Is Influence

It is pretty hard to convince me to try something again once I have an unfavorable experience. Out of all the things that influence me, my personal experiences are primary. Secondary to my experiences I am influenced by experiences shared via people I trust, respect and admire. Lastly, I find myself being influenced by whatever I give a considerable amount of time to. A sad point of example: After overdosing on back to back chapters of House of Cards, my thoughts for a couple days were noticeably slanted to political evil.

Just about everything we can experience has significantly changed in the last five years due to social technologies. This is especially true for how we experience products, services and brands. In the past we may only know a company via their marketing messages. As rapid global innovation and competition increases distractions and decreases loyalty, companies are forced to provide a more transparent and favorable experience to maintain relationships with their customers and employees.

There are three ways we come to know an organization:
1. As a customer or potential customer ( As a supporter, if organization is non-profit)
2. As an employee
3. By a customer or employee experience shared second hand via a personal influencer

Influence is gained or lost through one of these three experiences. Very little influence is gained via a marketing campaign without one of these direct experiences. This shift has put tremendous pressure on marketing executives. Hybrid roles and projects between marketing, operations and human resources have been created in Fortune 500 companies to address shifting dynamics of influence.

Failure to influence happens for three reasons:
  1. When there is no culture to back it up (people, purpose, conversations, content)
  2. When there is no awareness to what is already influencing customers and employees
  3. When means of operation is forced and/or control is overly emphasized

All three of those factors can be addressed by looking at how a company operates. When the only means of operation is controlled by work traveling through a traditional organizational chart, both workflow and people are restricted by policy and can lose sight of purpose. When this happens, the well-being of employees, customers and shareholders are impacted. Favorable culture is achieved when the "how" and the "why" of operations is the experience that is desired for customers. This alignment happens when both employees and customers are allowed and motivated to participate in cultural development. Where there is motivated participation there is an organizational system for which influence can be sustained through challenges and changes. A system of influence can be used for innovative and agile solutions. How people interact in a system of influence creates workflow that moves similar to how something gains viral traction in a social network.

Generating, moderating and channeling influence has become the most important thing that any company can invest in, so why aren't more doing it? There might be confusion on what department allocates the budget for this yet this is easily overcome by a sharing a budget between operations, human resources and marketing.

Another challenge is many company leaders underestimate the value of a social network structure. It is crucial for this structure to be integrated in a companies' organizational system yet if leaders have not experienced any success in social media they won't understand why they need to embrace a social network structure.

In late 2013, Zappos announced they would be embracing Holacracy, an organizational system where an organization's leadership team and managers relinquishes control and decision making to a document (Holacracy Constitution) that is used to implement a governing process of role creations and assignments. The media put a lot of emphasis on "Zappos getting rid of managers" during this announcement yet the value of the system is less about this and more about how people in the company will be participating in small groups of interest similar to what happens in a social network.

Progress and innovation is happening in social network structures through these steps:
  1. Information is shared and developed via a group of people who share interest
  2. Development takes place on interest as information is shared back and forth between special interest groups
  3. Interest turns into a project, solution, service, event, news, etc.
  4. Outcome of interest is shared publicly
  5. Each group member plays a role in reaching the public with their connections, interaction and influence in other special interest groups.
  6. Viral traction takes place based on a maximized formula of quantity of groups and influencers and quality of interaction.

Favorable outcomes start with influence. Favorable organizational transformation happens when companies create paths for their people to become influencers in company culture. This focus is not an extra luxury reserved for wealthy companies, it is an essential element for which a company stays relevant in their industry, grows relationship with clients and attracts quality talent to their organization.

Stephanie is a speaker at the upcoming Gov20LA event in Santa Monica on April 28, where she will be going into further detail about what is discussed here.