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Exercising Influence: A Guide for Making Things Happen at Work, at Home, and in Your Community, 3rd Edition by B. Kim Barnes

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Chapter 11Focus on the ContextSystem, Organization, Culture, and Timing

Every moment instructs, and every object: for wisdom is infused into every form.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Influencing in an Open System

It's all very well to know everything you can about the person you're going to influence and the issue you're going to influence about. You can even be exceptionally good at the influence behaviors you have decided to use and still end up without the result you hoped for—or with one that makes your worst-case scenario look like a tea party.

Often that is because you've left a few important things out of your analysis, and they turned out to be the most important ingredients. It's as if your great-aunt Jane gave you the recipe for her famous chocolate cake, but just happened to leave out one or two items, and the cake turned out flat and tasted like chalk.

The reason that so many good influence intentions come to naught is that you're almost never dealing with a tabula rasa—a blank slate—a situation completely divorced from other realities. The slate has been written on. Every influence opportunity is part of a larger, open system that involves a variety of other issues, people, organizations, cultures, and other things, tangible or intangible, that exist in or out of time and space. Any one of them can override your best plans or make your needs irrelevant. An “open system” is one that receives information from outside of itself (inputs), transforms it, and sends information ...

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