Measuring stiffness

Young’s modulus is a measurement of stiffness. I’m pretty sure they mean the stiffness of various materials, like steel or wool, but wouldn’t it be great if we could apply this measurement to people and their organizations?

Some industries have a very high modulus. They resist new ideas and go so far as to expunge new thinkers from their midst. Others have a low modulus, they flop from new thing to new thing, never sticking it out long enough to actually get somewhere.

We’ve all been on sales calls where the very presence of a conference room and a salesperson means that the prospect’s Young’s modulus has been dramatically raised. Just walking into the room increases her stiffness.

Stiffness, as any willow tree can tell you, is not always a good thing. Excessive stiffness can lead to brittleness, to missing the boat because you’re just plain stubborn. At the other extreme, those with way too low a modulus just end up doing whatever the group is into in this minute.

What can you do with this useful measurement? I think the marketing approach you take has to reflect the modulus of the person you’re marketing to. Selling a new pop record takes a lot less persistence than getting a Fortune 500 company to change its insurance carrier.

More interesting, though, is the internal opportunity. If the organization you work for is too stiff, you can change it. First, by talking about it. By measuring it. By pointing out how long it takes you to adopt a new technology, or how many sales calls it takes for you to adopt something great. After a while, the people with good ideas get the message and they stop showing up.