Gladwell, Advertising & Influencing Corporate Culture


I recently reread The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and was struck by the many principles that have applicability to corporate learning and corporate culture. It underscores the thinking that behaviors can be influenced and shaped by regular, positive, proactive communication. Here are a few thoughts.

Fundamental Attribution Error: This social psychology principle states that when it comes to behavior, we tend to overestimate internal stimulus and underestimate external stimulus. We think, he or she is a “good person” so we don’t need to worry about them, but the truth of the matter is that these seemingly smart, knowledgable, “normal” people still sometimes do things you wouldn’t expect – stealing office supplies, cheating on their expense reports, looking the other way or covering up problems, giving and receiving gifts (bribes) and so on. These things are often implicitly supported because the situation or environment makes it seem okay at the time. Said another way, Environment Matters.

Effective Frequency: This is an advertising term which essentially refers to the number of times a person needs to be exposed to a message until it makes an impact. Training and communication can’t be annual things. Eighty-seven percent of corporate learning is lost within the first month. People need reminders and reinforcement. And guess what, the advertising model works. There is benefit in regular, simple, positive, proactive, multichannel (web, print, audio, video, live) communications as a way to raise awareness, improve engagement, reinforce learning, affect behaviors and influence corporate culture. Frequency Matters.

Approachability: Boring doesn’t work. Scare tactics have a short shelf life. People have limited tolerance for the finger-wag. They will tune it all out. You, your team, your policies, your trainings and resources need to be accessible and approachable. The way you present information makes a difference. There are great improv-based professional development programs that are fun and effective from a skills-building perspective. For corporate communication, use humor, music, fun visuals, interactive games, anything interesting because it leaves an impression. People won’t go to the office of “no.” Fear and apathy eats culture. A regular stream of short, interesting, and positive can help. Positivity & Interesting Matters.

This is why as leaders, educators and communicators, to actively affect culture we need to be omnipresent with our messaging and that messaging needs to be interesting and positive. It’s not enough to train once a year and put up a poster every now and then. It’s not enough to post your values accompanied by stock photography. It’s not enough to circulate policies and ask employees to certify that they’ve read and understood. Training, knowledge comprehension and measurement are important. But in addition, to mitigate risk, we need to be vigilant with our communication to counterbalance cynicism and negative group-think, i.e. “everybody does it,” with our own, positive messages, “integrity matters,” “we’re the kind of company that does things right” or even simply “you can call us…we’re here to help.” It’s important to have regular, proactive, positive, creative campaigns that appear in the places where employees are, to to actively influence, build and shape the culture we are striving for.

Environment Matters * Frequency Matters * Positivity & Interesting Matters

#corporatecommunication #compliance #infosecurity #safety #corporateculture #positivenotpreachy #poweroffun

Ronnie Feldman, President & Creative Director, Learnings & Entertainments


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p.s. don’t forget to have fun today !

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