Influence is a complex topic. It’s not helped by lazy definitions of ‘influential’: Lady Gaga’s appearance in TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2010 doesn’t imply we’re all wearing lamps on our heads, playing grade 8 piano and draping ourselves in raw meat: it just means she has a number of friends on Facebook that undermines the meaning of ‘friend’.

But there are less flippant issues with ‘influential’: is influencing something that happens through media, articles, journals and august books, or is something that happens rather closer to home? What of the role of social media and other new channels as mediums for influence? Are different groups and generations being influenced in different ways by different people. How can a US-based author be more influential than the line manager whose oxygen we share 45 hours a week?

Two commentators have been responding:

  • Who are the new influencers?: the HRD reminds of the meaning of influence as “to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks”, pointing our that none of the names on the lists in HR Magazine or HR Examiner have had a discernible impact on his daily life as an HRD director. For theHRD, influence is not delivered from above through a star system, but “a whole load of small things and discussions coming together to make a change”.
  • Who are the new influencers?: Jon Ingham, despite being listed highly by HR Examiner, also has his doubts about the HR Magazine list, and is “surprised to see just how similar it was to lists from previous years”. Like theHRD, Ingham is a commentator/practitioner for whom influence happens at a different level, and sees the new school of influences as “are who are connected to the rest of a community through the shortest path”.

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