Lots in transition

By: | Published: January 11, 2015 1:24 AM

The Small BIG is a practical guide to persuasion that can be placed on every business bookshelf

The Small BIG
Steve J Martin, Noah Goldstein & Robert Cialdini
Rs 399
Pp 288

Anirudh Vohra
THE SMALL BIG, a book on the art of persuading people to change their behaviour, will intrigue readers enough to jot down notes and ideas, as they go from one chapter to another. And here’s a glimpse of what those notes might look like:
* Changing people’s environment can change their minds
* Focus on similarities—shared identity
* A sense of owing your future self can motivate self-change
* Procrastination—requires short expiration dates
* A promise of potential outshines reality
* Just ask

And so on. Grounded by research and mixing discussion with examples, The Small BIG is the third book by Arizona State University professor Robert Cialdini. His classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, has sold more than two million copies. And Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, the last book by the trio of Steve J Martin, Noah Goldstein and Robert Cialdini, the authors of The Small BIG, has been read by more than 500,000 people.

Books with a similar theme usually feature studies by other scientists, but The Small BIG has a surprisingly large amount of research that has been conducted by the authors themselves.

It has 52 chapters, each of which features one to three studies—all referenced at the back of the book.

One of the most weighty examples is a letter sent by the UK tax authorities to overdue taxpayers. The original letter mentioning penalties, legal consequences and so on wasn’t very effective, resulting in a relatively low compliance of 57%. But one small change in the wordings of the letter caused the compliance rate to jump to 86%, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue. But what was this magical change? Well, the letters were revised to tell recipients that a large number of people do pay their taxes on time.

Simply (and truthfully) highlighting the behaviour of other taxpayers was enough to invoke the power of social proof.

Another chapter highlights how small changes in booking procedures at clinics and hospitals reduced the number of missed appointments. Just by having a patient repeat the appointment details verbally caused a small (3%) but significant drop in no-shows. In fact, having a patient write the details of the appointment caused an 18% drop, a change with major implications for cost and efficiency.

Every chapter in the book is short (about three-five pages) and all are outlined at the beginning, so you can pick and choose what you want to read. Everything from employee productivity to gaining effective online reviews is covered here. The writing is clear and concise as well.

One of the most appealing aspects of this book is that the ideas are applicable to all businesses—irrespective of size—and even non-profits. As the title suggests, these are small changes that don’t require sweeping cultural changes or massive expenditures.

The Small BIG is a practical guide to persuasion that can be placed on every business books’ shelf. Whether you are a boss or an employee, a parent or teacher, these are some great tools powered with research that will benefit your life.

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