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CIO Upfront: Is your influence tool chest missing this effective approach?

Campbell Such | April 7, 2015
Here's an effective, easily implemented, practical approach to try the next time you have to present a proposal.

Only now should you show them the solution. Only now, that they're aware of the bull, should you show them the gate.

This will do two things:

1. Get the focus and attention of the other party by raising their level of tension because of the "problem" and then;

2. Provide the relevant context for the solution you are presenting. A gate without a bull is not a solution, it's well, just a gate.

So you've got their attention, what do you present to them?

Step 2: Limit the number of options you present with your solution
The modern world provides us with endless choice. Surprisingly more choice makes it more difficult for us to decide. Often without realising it, more options will mean we'll choose to delay making a decision or even not proceed.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice) argues that too much choice is actually a bad thing, causing decision paralysis and unhappiness.

Read more: 'The CIO holds the most strategic role in the enterprise today, with the exception of the CEO'

Sheena Iyengar set up an experiment with a jam-tasting stall in an upmarket supermarket in California. Sometimes shoppers were offered six varieties of jam to taste, other times 24 varieties.

After tasting the shoppers were offered a $1 discount voucher to buy jam. As you might expect, the display with the choice of 24 jams attracted more customers than the display with six jams -- almost 40 per cent more.

But the results of what shoppers actually bought were surprising: The display that offered less choice resulted in 10 times more sales. Only 3 per cent of jam tasters at the 24 variety stand used their discount voucher, whereas 30 per cent at the six-variety stand used theirs.

So how can this help us?
You've started with the problem and you're now ready to present your solution. You generally need to present more than one option so they have a choice and don't feel railroaded into an approval. But as we've seen in the jam experiment too much choice can be counterproductive.

What's the right number of options to present?
You're the expert, you've assessed the options, and you've done the work to narrow it down to the best options. If possible, don't present more than three options because it makes the decision harder and more likely to be delayed. If you're asked whether you considered other options, then just refer to them and briefly explain why you eliminated them.

Does the order I present the options make any difference? It does. Here's how to do it the right way.

A mentor once said: 'Treat your behaviour like clothes -- reach into your wardrobe and put on the clothes best suited to the occasion.'


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