Six Sources of Influence

In their book Influencer, the authors identify six sources of influence. The authors believe before you can influence change, you have to decide what you’re trying to change. They believe the “what” is identifying behaviors and more specificaly what they call “vital behaviors”.  Their research shows if you identify a handful of high-leverage behaviors and change those “vital behaviors”,  the problem – no matter the size – topples like a house of cards.

The authors believe to be able impact human behavior you first start with two questions: “Can I do what’s required?” and “Will it be worth it?”  Then the authors further subdivide motivation and ability into personal, social and structural arenas to isolate the six sources of influence.

  Motivation Ability
Personal Make the Undesirable Desirable Surpass Your Limits
Social Harness Peer Pressure Find Strength in Numbers
Structural Design Rewards and Demand Accountability Change the Environment


1.) Personal Motivation
This source of influence asks the question: Do individuals take personal satisifaction from doing the required activity? That is, does enacting the vital behavior itself bring people pleasure? If not, how can you get people (yourself or others) to do things they currently find loathsome, boring, insulting or painful?

2.) Personal Ability
This source of influence focuses on the need learn and practice the behavior. Develop greater proficiency at a deliberate pace as well as the ability to manage your emotions, and you significantly increase the chances for turning vital behaviors into vital habits.

3. ) Social Motivation
No resource is more powerful and accessible then the persuasion of the people who make up our social network. Sometime change efforts call for change in widely shared norms. Public discourse allows for healthy dialogue provided it is safe to talk about high-stakes and controversial topics.

4.) Social Ability
With a help from our friends we can produce a force greater than the sum of our individual efforts. When used properly, it is this help or “social captial” which enable the power of our network of relationships.

5.) Structural Motivation
Administering rewards and punishment is tricky. First, rely on personal and social motivators. When you do choose to employ extrinsic rewards. make sure they are immediately linked to vital behaviors,  Do your best to reward behaviors and not merely outcomes.

6.Structural Ability
The final source of influence moves away improving personal mastery and social capital and focuses on the environment. The impact of the physical world on human behavior us profound. By examining the power of the enivornment, you amplify the opportunity for permanent change in behaviors.