Steve Martin, CMCT, Published in The Harvard Business Review


Mr. Steve Martin, CMCT & Dr. Robert Cialdini


Science in Practice

by Dr. Robert Cialdini

I once attended a conference where I heard an academic described as someone who “ wasn’t satisfied with an idea that worked in practice until it had been tried out in theory.”  As a behavioral scientist I will always applaud efforts to ensure that, wherever possible, academic rigour is applied to the evaluation of an idea or strategy. At the same time I recognize that a theoretically interesting idea alone, without a meaningful application, will often remain just that; a theoretically interesting idea. 


I also maintain that steps be taken to avoid decision making based on nothing more than a gut-informed ‘this seems like the right thing to do’. The cautionary nature of organizations brought about by the volatility of markets and the global economic downturn has meant that strategies and approaches based on intuition and gut-feel alone are increasingly dealt short shrift by decision makers.


At INFLUENCE AT WORK we believe that the theory of an idea and the practical and ethical application of that same idea are not mutually exclusive. All are crucial to a modern day business in achieving its goals. Through our work we strive to advance


 not only a scientific understanding of what moves people to change but a practical understanding that organizations and business can employ that benefit all. It is central to everything we do.

Our mantra is Proven Science for Business Success.

It is a philosophy that appears to have landed on fertile ground. I am delighted when I receive reports from readers describing how they employed an insight from persuasion science to good effect that benefitted not just themselves but also the person they were interacting with. Participants who attend our Principles of Persuasion Workshops frequently report how the six universal principles of influence have helped them to develop practices and strategies for their business that have resulted in efficiencies, savings and sales growth worth thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars. 

As we continue to face one of the most uncertain and economically challenging environments in recent history perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised how interest in the science of influence and the behavioral sciences in general has exploded of late. Corporations can ill afford to hedge their bets on an idea grounded in nothing more than a hunch. Organizations are less amenable to ‘taking a punt’ and increasingly demand an evidence base to inform their decision making. Even governments are getting in on the act as they fight to provide for an increasingly demanding citizenship with faltering capacity and resources.

In such volatile times traditional economic and legislative approaches can come up short. Incentives, penalties and policies whilst crucial are rarely enough. We need to think again and consider how behavioral approaches can be practical applied to support efforts. Here at INFLUENCE AT WORK we have been at the forefront applying insights from the science of influence to such challenges. 

Most importantly, as well as providing the theory and the practice, Steve details the impact of these approaches – and the results that are no longer just measured in millions. Billions of dollars are now being realized in efficiencies, savings and revenues. This shift from millions to billions makes a compelling case that approaches informed from persuasion science should increasingly warrant a cen

tral stage of business strategy rather than lie on the relative fringes.This week the October 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review hits the shelves. The lead IdeaWatch article has been written by my Yes! co-author and IIR staff writer Steve Martin CMCT. In the piece Steve describes how social norms are being successfully employed to overcome a variety of challenges and provides key insights that any business can employ in their own environment.

If you would like to read the HBR article we have 50 electronic copies to offer to the first 50 IIR readers posting a comment in response to this post. After posting your comment please send your email address to writing ‘HBR’ in the subject and we’ll arrange for it to be sent to you on return.


  • Justin

    Cute opener – I’m going to remember that one. I’m interested to read the HBR article.

  • BG

    I would like to read the article. I read all your blog entries and most of them has helped me tremendously.

  • Eric

    It’s great to see the Influence at Work principles hitting the mainstream business press. We have trained our entire 200-person sales force on the POP and have seen them work in real-life (not just in theory)!

  • RB3PO

    In some ways, the construction industry has proven highly resistant to changes in attitudes and parctice. A case study involving priniciples of persuasion in such an environment would be very interesting.

  • Matt Maples

    I’m excited that the Harvard Business Review is writing about behavior science as I think that this is a different way of looking at how people interact and make decisions. I look forward to reading the article!

  • JS

    I appreciate your consistent emphasis on the need for both ethics and skill in the persuasion and influence. The need for both character and competence in leadership is essential and your training emphasizes both.

  • BT

    Kudos! No surprise that HBR is interested. We have been interested for quite some time now..

  • dreynol8

    Science successfully applied in practice becomes a technology. Dr. Cialdini work has certainly become a purposeful technology for influencing behaviors.

  • MP

    I’ve benefited tremendously from your books, and I look forward to reading the HBR article.

  • Jen O

    I’m a scientist at heart. I use your material daily–in training others, coaching our managers, and consulting with ownership on organizational development practices. Thank you!!

  • Scott Moldenhauer

    Yeah! Congrats to Steve and HBR! I can’t wait to read the article.

  • Mark C

    Great to see more of your work as a team getting recognized – well done!

  • Peter Lopez-L.A. BizSeller

    I love your books and have learned a lot from you do I look forward to reading the article.

  • Patrick

    Bob, how right you are about the science and practice. So many organizations struggle with letting go of what doesn’t work and embracing what does — the science. But, I agree there is a renewed interest in using data, research, science to lead the way. Please continue your efforts.

  • Mary Federico

    I use the information in your books every day in consulting with and coaching clients, and have found it tremendously useful. Looking forward to reading the article!
    –Mary Federico

  • Howard Goldman

    These insights into how they can be applied in a business setting are often very useful.

  • pam

    Thanks for continuing to speak out for the thoughtful integration of theory and practice. Often, at the university where I work, people talk about integrating theory and practice yet we isolate ourselves from the practitioners and applied environments where true multi-way collaboration could happen to advance behavioral science questions.

  • George Rodgers

    Good Afternoon: I; have been POP student for several years and with proper application produced excellent results and continue to search for additional oportunitues for application and trust the report will provided some cogent ideas.

  • Debra J. Slover

    I echo the others in thanks for the thoughtful insights. As a practioner who often uses gut intinstic, I always look for the science to back it up before I employ a strategy or idea. The practical application of ideas that are grounded in science is always a winning combination. Thanks for lending credence to visionary ideas.

  • Alex

    I would like very much to read the article . Have only been a fan and an admirer since 1994 when my son who was an undergraduate said “Dad, you really need to read this book by Dr.Cialdini .” I actually did read it completely… underlining, writimg in the margins, etc! It’s very encouraging and in many ways reassuring that his principles resonate throughout the world.

  • Armand

    “Proven Science for Business Success” a much needed approach were it is to easy to spread rumours as published ideas. Can’t wait for Yes 2.0 to read more

  • David

    Are you using “tiny habits” in your work?

  • Andy Iskandar

    Hi, I’m a direct response marketer and what you’ve wrote about in the article is nothing new in the direct response marketing world. We live and die by our results and as such, we always test (A/B or multi-variate) our marketing campaigns. There is so much the direct response marketing world can share with the rest of the world.

    In any case, I would very much love to read the article Steve wrote. Thanks!

  • Angie Coker Wheeler

    I’ve been teaching sales workshops for financial services firms for 15 years. Last year I began incorporating behavioral science and ‘how people make decisions’ — what a difference in salesperson mindset this makes. Now can’t imagine not teaching it. Sales skills alone is incomplete. (By the way, my professor used Dr. Cialdini’s book “Influence” in my business persuasion class in 1991. To this day I recommend it to every group I speak to or teach!)

  • Jacob de Lichtenberg

    I would like a copy of the article as well.

  • Steve Brown

    Psychology can only move forward and reach true acceptance when it is empirically based.

  • Bill Yallalee

    It’s great to see the word “ethical” used in conjunction with the science of influence. It’s the right thing to do.

  • Craig

    Looking forward to reading the article love this blog

  • Marc

    Fascinating. I’d love to receive a copy of the HBR article. Many thanks.

  • Jason Friedman

    I read POP a year ago and use the principle of commitment all the time at the office. Very useful.

  • scott

    it’s gratifying to see a reinforcement of our own recommendation that one create business cases with empirical data rather than rely on conventional wisdom

  • Walter Thome Jr.

    I live in Brazil and have read all your books. As I manage a small advertising agency in an interior city, I’ve tried to pass to my staff your six Principles of Influence. I must say that your ideas work just fine in practice. Also, I must state that we stand to work ethically, in every situation.
    Your ideas have worked both – in our relationship with our clients and in preparing ads for them.
    I wish someday I can attend one of your workshops.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for your help.

  • obprofessor

    Congratulations. Your program is getting more of the attention that it deserves.

  • Patti Flint

    It is no surprise HBR is seeking your work. It is compelling and effective!

  • Jason Yip

    Any theory that might be considered valid must be able to explain all known empirical data which seems to me to include practical experiences. Granted, the explanation could be that the experience didn’t actually occur or was misinterpreted.

  • Jeff

    As a member of the Financial Services Industry in Canada, the Principles of Influence have been instrumental in the quality of the advice that we provide to our clients and the number of clients that we are able to help. With a focus of providing quality advice that will leave our clients in a better position than before we met them, we can use the Principles of Influence in good faith. Thanks for your guidance.

  • Jim Hath

    I attended a POP conference about 10 years ago, and still remember and apply what I’ve learned on at least a weekly basis. The simplicity with which the principles are presented belies the significant impact that they have in everyday situations. Congratulations on the HBR coverage, and I will continue to look forward to your regular insights.

  • Warren S

    Bravo! And about time. Our world needs more scientifically principled decision making and your work is vital to bringing it about. I use your work everyday in every interaction with others, and have discovered that people treat me as more credible when I do.

  • Peter Hofstetter

    In a similar vein, I like a quote from a film that was “It was still a good idea. Just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean that it was a bad idea”

  • Brian Moore

    Getting into the HBR means IAW will no longer be our little secret…darn!

  • Craig

    There seems a paradox in our political and industry leaders using scientific social proffing tactics to generate short term social proof outcomes such as opinion polls and favorable analyst reviews yet the proposal itself is not founded in scientific proof that it will actually change the fundamental behavior that the proposal seeks to address.

  • Lise Van Susteren

    No one knows how to reach people with a message that works – like you do!

    Your work on how to change attitudes about saving energy (for example) – shedding light on how different what we THINK motivates us – vs what ACTUALLY motivates us – has ennabled countless messengers to be more effective at persuading people to change.
    Many thanks!

  • Lise VS


  • SMP

    I work in a university and like Pam I continue to be surprised that “people talk about integrating theory and practice” yet so many opportunities to do that are missed … often we have academics who are regularly cited internationally and as practitioners we could draw on their knowledge and vice versa to create better quality research and practice.

  • Mark Baker

    Dr. Cialdini’s principles of persuasion have great application in everyday business life.

  • milton

    Great insight. I look forward to the HBR piece.

  • Chad

    You are right, understanding behavior helps to fundamentally recognize desires of customer/potential customers. What type of listening and tracking mechanisms are you using to gather data?

  • omanateez

    I’m new to this field, but it sounds very interesting.

  • Brian L.

    Another great blog/article Dr.Cialdini! Your Thought Leadership, research, books and articles on “Influence” have really shaped by thinking on the subject. Thank you.

  • Robert

    I have found your articles to be very useful and informative, keep them coming.

  • Dane

    Great news! Glad to see your work continuing to gain greater exposure. It’s already been very helpful to me.

  • Mike

    comment 51! bad luck :)

  • Ed

    I follow your website and comments… Is it ok If I am number 53?

  • Eily VanderMeer IAW

    Thanks for the comments! We were lucky to get a few extra so everyone who has commented to this point will get an article! Stay tuned for more!

  • Dr Lynn Johnson

    I read this and can’t figure out what I learned. It seems thin, and self-congratulatory, frankly. Where is an actionable insight? You can do better, and usually you do.

  • chris

    I would really like to read the whole article!

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