Who influences who?

We had a very interesting event this morning at Nesta on networks of influence with about 70 people co-facilitated by Mark Earls, Johnnie Moore and James Cherkoff.

The structure was very simple, but possibly rather groundbreaking for a Monday morning. We played a number of 'games' whereby we all lead, influenced, nudged, suggested in different ways and then talked about it afterwards. Doesn't sound that remarkable but it was.

Two particular examples stood out for me from the morning:

  1. Firstly, we did a silent version of Chinese whispers. About 15 people stood facing one way in a chain, and then in pairs, transmitted a series of simple movements. Needless to say, as typically happens in Chinese whispers, the movements morphed significantly through the chain. Interestingly, and I stress we didn't have this incentive today, when this was tried in a big company with a £5000 incentive, they still couldn't get it right. So it's not just a case of concentrating hard. Messages or movements get changed, morphed, adapted, and we should not just tolerate this, we should embrace it. This is  a hard pill for marketers or politicians to swallow. For me Jimmy Hendrix illustrates this point nicely by pointing out that the greatest compliment is when somebody copies your mistakes!
  2. Secondly, we started another game whereby we paired off, by height as it happens. The task was to 'get your partner into the air as often as possible in 20 seconds'. This group of people broke out into almost spontaneous jumping as this cooperative strategy was obviously the most efficient and least painful. However, once again apparently this strategy is not often adopted quite so quickly if at all, and some impromptu wrestling can ensue if you’re not very careful. I guess this illustrates the difference between competitive and collaborative strategies nicely which I don't need to elaborate on further here.

In summary, I really enjoyed the session and I guess one of the big take aways for me is the value of trying these games, rather than just talking or reading about them. In many ways it was quite counterintuitive for me as I usually like to sit back, reflect, observe and supposedly rationally analyse what was going on. However, this morning taught me that a) we probably usually over think stuff and b) maybe we're not so rational as we think we are.


  1. not sure what I thought of the event to be honest. Unusually for a NESTA event, I came away with no real motivation one way or the other (not a good thing). However, in one of the breakaway sessions an engineer talked with passion and a certain amount of desperation, about how he should communicate his product benefits to new consumers. I didn’t get his card, but I have a few ideas for him….is there anyway I can connect with him through NESTA?

  2. Hi Tina,
    Thanks for your comment and I’m sorry the event didn’t motivate you strongly. I guess all I’d say is that a lot of organisations/people are struggling with this idea of netwroks and influence at the moment so we are a long way from answers or solutions. Is there anything we could have done to make it more satisfying from your point of view?
    Re connecting with other participants, I think Mark Earls was planning to set up a facebook group this afternoon which people can join. Re the engineer, I got his card so I’ll email you his details direct.

  3. I think possibly I am just not the right horse for such a course. Most people there seemed to be enjoying it. Personally I would rather use a room full of such brains to address real problems and possible solutions in smaller groups, after a game to break the ice. For me there were a few too many games and not enough real discussion and application. I wont go on.
    Thanks for the contact info.

  4. I saw it as part one, as there’s always a lot more to understand with this big idea…perhaps too much for one morning in February?
    Thanks for connecting me with a lot of great people

  5. Hugely stimulating. Lots of big messages, one of which was the deceptively simple observation that people will always see things differently and we can’t impose our will on them even if we are absolutely certain we are right. I found Johnnie Moore’s facilitation incredibly helpful and very inspiring – at least it has inspired me to open up more to possibility…..

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