Influence Project Status Report

On November 3, 2010, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

We find greatness by tackling the imperfect. Waiting around to get it right always produces ‘analysis paralysis’. It’s better to put a stake in the ground and get started than it is to sit around waiting for perfect inspiration, the right timing and an unassailable position of strength. It’s easier to navigate when you’re moving. It’s easier to criticize when you are standing still.

These are the fundamental design principles for our ongoing research into influence in HR and the industries and institutions that serve it.

That experiment, which includes the algorithm generated lists of Influencers on the HRExaminer and the 18 month old Top 100 HR Influencers project, is an attempt to understand how influence works and how it changes over time. From the beginning, several things have been apparent:

  • People who work in the business have less influence than those who work on it.
    One of the amazing things about the HRExaminer Influence project is that we are seeing the emergence of some ‘dirt under the fingernails’ professionals who are able to exert industry-wide influence. That’s a  consequence of the democratization of publishing and early days of social media. Still, only a small percentage of working level professionals wield big levels of influence. They generally don’t have an adequate marketing budget.
  • People who have influence tend to broaden their base.
    Although it isn’t uniformly true, there seems to be a threshold for industry wide influence. Take a look at the current list of Online influencers in Recruiting. Many of them have broader interests than just recruiting. It appears that enlarging one’s perspective is a part of survival in consulting and academia.
  • Influence changes based on trends, familiarity and focus.
    The spotlight is not a permanent place. People move up and down in rankings of influence because their work and routines change. Bill Vick, who was number 2 on our first list of Recruiting Influencers fell off the list. He decided to pursue other things and his publishing and content shifted with him. Alice Snell, whose content output is like clockwork, held a relatively steady place.
  • The method does not reflect actual real world influence.
    John Sullivan falls to the bottom of our online list. His real influence is felt in conference rooms and auditoriums. Lou Adler doesn’t even make the list at all even though he is a (if not the most) critical part of the training infrastructure. Kevin Wheeler is absent as well. These three people are the heart of influence in the Recruiting silo.
    I expect that online influence and real world influence will increasingly overlap over the next four or five years. Once the old guard moves on, online influence will be the primary form.
  • There are other (many) very useful ways to think about influence.
    The goal of our projects is to start and maintain an industry wide conversation on influence and its meaning. In flat, global organizations, understanding and being able to harness influence is the key managerial skill. Very little work is being done to train tomorrow’s leaders even though it is clear that hierarchical leadership is doomed. Josh LeTourneau is doing interesting recurring investigation of network influence.

So, last week, we released version 2.0 of our look at Influence in Recruiting. Predictably, some new issues emerged.

  • Every new list creates some level of controversy
    On its release, version 2.0 was called two different things. In some places, it was labeled “Top 25 Most Influential Recruiters”. In others, it was called “Top 25 Online Influencers In Recruiting”. Apparently, the nuance was enough to raise the eyebrows of a few critics. “There are only 10 working recruiters on the list”, they cried. The best way to think about these lists is probably “People who produce online content that mentions the keywords we think represent Recruiting and have measurable audiences and mentions in conversations online.” (Makes a crummy title, though)  Since it’s more or less impossible to tell who is or isn’t a Recruiter (the only current measure is self-identification), we decided to leave that question alone.
  • Our algorithms leave something to be desired
    It’s way early and we’re learning as we go. The tool gets somethings right and some things wrong. Because the underlying database is huge (the social graph), it’s not all up to date all the time. This round of analysis had about 50% more errors than the last one.
  • The categories are starting to blur.
    Nearly 60% of the people on this list also appear on one or more of our other automatically generated influencer lists. Some of this is a weakness in the tool. Some of it is caused by the economic environment (everyone is doing more than one job). Some of it comes from the natural broadening that influencers undergo.
  • Online Influence is fickle and must Be maintained.
    Less than six months after the release of v 1.0. almost 40% of the people on this list are new to the list. Social media relentlessly requires fresh new and relevant content. The minute you change focus or routine, your leverage shrinks. The world of online influence is all about ‘what have you done for me lately”. You can not rest on your laurels.

Here’s last weeks list with a couple of annotations. One column indicates whether or not the person appears on our other lists. The third column shows ranking in v 1.0. As always, we value your questions and recommendations.

Top 25 Online Influencers: Recruiting

Other Top 25s
1 / Peggy McKee
2 / Chris Hoyt
3 / Amybeth Hale
4 / Bill Boorman
5 / Jim Stroud
6 / Dave Mendoza
7 / Shally Steckerl
8 / Jon Ingham
9 / Michael Long
10 / Jessica Lee
11 / Peter Gold
12 / Barry Deutsch
13 / Paul DeBettignies
14 / Kris Dunn
15 / Alice Snell
16 / Josh Bersin
17 / Jennifer McClure
18 / Kevin Grossman
19 / Josh Letourneau
20 / Glen Cathey
21 / Jason Buss
22 / Trisha McFarlane
23 / Dr. John Sullivan
24 / Sharlyn Lauby
25 / Mark Stelzner

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