Every hour, nearly 7000 new reviews are posted on TripAdvisor. Reading about someone’s delicious meal at the restaurant you’re viewing is interesting - but seeing that another 450 people had a great experience there has you making a reservation. If a large number of people recommend an activity, you’re more likely to do it yourself. 

Obvious, perhaps, but valuable; this simple social proof principle can be extremely powerful when it comes to accelerating change. In business, if you’re trying to champion the adoption of any kind of best practice, you’ll know that there is an art to encouraging learning and knowledge sharing across teams. You’ll also understand the importance of learning from peers across industries.

The Manufacture 2030 team has been distilling these ideas into M2030 bee - and we’ve put together a few of the top social proof principles you can use too:

How does social proof work?

1. Multiple source effect - You tend to value something if you know that many others rate it highly.

2. Reducing Uncertainty - Knowing that at least one other person has tried something and succeeded  gives you confidence in the fact that it might work for you.

3. Similarity to peers - When you recognise that you’re similar to the people around you, you’re more likely to adopt the behaviour of those you consider to be your peers.

How can you use social proof?

One of the hardest parts of championing change through shared learning is understanding what people know, and who can benefit from their knowledge. Using social proof can be a powerful way for a champion to relieve themselves of too much organisational leg-work.

As energy efficiency, water or waste reduction actions can often be overlooked, part of the challenge is to engage people from the outset. The next hurdle is ensuring that the knowledge required to make improvements is in the hands of the right people. But how?

1. Demonstrate the wisdom of the crowd

The Toyota Production System is widely regarded as one of the most effective continuous improvement programmes in the world. One of its less well reported tools that Toyota uses is the “A3”. It is a template - on an A3 size piece of paper - designed so that others can see at a glance how you solved a problem using 7 standard steps. To use an A3, you must make your explanation as straightforward and as visual as possible. The approach, which is simple by design, quickly became the norm inside Toyota because so many people found it so easy to use when sharing their ideas.

The key is to find simple ways to highlight action that many others have done before. The more people you see who have done something and been successful, the more likely you are to want to do it yourself. Sharing case studies and stories to demonstrate others’ positive experiences can be a powerful way of doing this.

Using the multiple source effect, we’ve developed a function in M2030 bee that makes it visible where others have adopted an action. With a novel Adoption Rate indicator next to each action, users can see what are the most popular things to do, thereby feeling confident that the approach you’ve selected has been tested by many others.

2. Make tried and tested information easily accessible

Another way to guide your knowledge to the right people is to encourage key practitioners in your organisation to develop training materials, or contribute to a shared playbook of best practice.

Communication is a key challenge here. No matter how valuable the information, if the format and delivery are unclear, effective engagement is difficult. Toyota’s A3 is so successful because it helps colleagues in different parts of the business see what has been tried before. The convenience of the format means that the thought processes behind A3 are easy to identify.

This is why we decided to embed a list of improvement actions in M2030 bee. To reduce uncertainty, there’s also a Tried and Tested filter on the list. This complements the adoption rate indicator to easily identify what has worked well for others. Discussions on each improvement action can also help to crystallize the important hints and tips for implementation.

3. Connect with others in the same boat

Find others who have done similar things. Expanding your networks can help to discover those who have done similar things. Professional bodies, online networks and conferences are particularly useful in this respect.

One approach is matchmaking - a process of systematically working around an organisation to talk to everyone who may have some practical knowledge and bringing  them together. This can be hugely beneficial, as it allows colleagues to learn more about each others’ current and previous roles and draw on their experience. To do this effectively, however, requires regular interaction, is time consuming and it is difficult to turn it into lasting momentum for implementing change.

A great deal of our work goes into simplifying the process of showing people how similar they are to their peers. To support this, wherever appropriate, M2030 bee shows which other practitioners are engaging with a particular improvement action, to facilitate introductions between users working on similar challenges and work streams.

4. Encouragement in the right place at the right time

Working out who can benefit from sharing specific knowledge can be a laborious task. To accelerate change, you have to be prepared to make it much easier for colleagues to go through this process for themselves - after all, collaboration can happen faster by using social proof in the right situations.

Organisational change is increasingly being facilitated through collaboration platforms. By using digital technology appropriately and focusing on connecting the right people, progress in the form of tangible and measurable action, can be made simpler and faster.

Blog written by Simon Roberts, Senior Analyst at Manufacture 2030

If you have any other stories or ideas on how to use social proof methods to accelerate change in your manufacturing operations, we’d love to hear them - get in touch by emailing m2030@2degreesnetwork.com.

If you want to receive more content like this, sign up to the Community today.