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I spent the last week trying to convince a group of people to use a cloud based word processor instead of the traditional desktop in order to avoid common problems of email exchange. What I thought would be time-consuming - being online to offer assistance should they find any problem using it - turned out to consume a lot of my time to actually make them use it.

Although they did end up using the cloud based tool, and even liking doing so, it required a couple of Scarlett Johanssonn pictures as - what I like to call - illustrative argument, which was awesome to add some humor to the heavy atmosphere caused by all the arguing.

I don't think I can keep using the same strategy in future attempts with different people, especially with those who fit in the late adopters and laggards in the Everett Rogers diffusion of innovation scale. So what kind of strategies could have been used to convince a group of people to at least try the new system with one project? Assuming, of course, that you didn't have the authority to impose it.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The first step is to sell the benefits. If people don't know something exists or don't know why it is good for them, they are never going to get on board.

After that, one approach is to "just start". For example, don't e-mail Word documents to your teammates anymore. Instead send them a link to the cloud based word processor. That way to read your docs, they must have accounts and go into the tool. Next they need to make a change and send it to you. Since you've already "forced" them to be in the tool, it becomes easier to make the change there than save the doc and change it.

I've had a lot of success with this on our internal wiki. I pretty much refuse to answer questions by e-mail for some types of questions. I reply with a link to the wiki. (even if I have to write the answer on the wiki right before replying.) Over time, people have learned to search the wiki before e-mailing. After all, it is faster to search the wiki than e-mail me and wait for me to do it for them.

For bigger changes, you need to get agreement before starting. In those cases, see if the project leader (if not the team) is willing to try it for one small aspect of the project. Once they start, it will spread if benefits are shown.

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How to Win Friends and Influence People has the following lists of suggestions you may want to consider from Dale Carnegie:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
  3. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
    1. Appeal to the nobler motives.
    2. Dramatize your ideas.
    3. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

1.Begin with praise and honest appreciation. 2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly. 3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. 4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. 5. Let the other person save face. 6. Praise every improvement. 7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. 8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. 9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Another line of thought here is to consider a couple of different psychologies when it comes to trying to persuade someone. Are you generally talking at a high level where everything is done through an overview and few details are given or do you tend to give lots of details and ignore giving the big picture? Similarly, are you trying to persuade someone through factual evidence or through emotional appeal? Just something to consider though Carnegie's suggestions are pretty good too.

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I think this case could be reduced to the general marketing problem of selling an innovation. My research into the subject has lead me to consider that more often than not, the problem does not lie in the adoption mindset (contrary to what innovation enthusiast would probably think) but rather in the innovation maturity. That is, I think that plenty of innovations do not get adopted not because of people's adoption inadequacies, but rather because the innovation has not matured enough yet.

For example, think about mobile phones. Did the fact that the majority of people are lazy, dumb and innovation averse, prevented them from becoming widespread. No, it didn't. I think it didn't because mobile phones had just been a mature enough innovation when they got first introduced.

In this line of thinking, I would start with a careful research first, about what could be insufficient in the new system, to make the work of co-workers really easier. What difficulties could they encounter along the way?

In other words, I would not focus so much on selling the benefits, rather than focus on learning about the possible obstacles.

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