Influence: the “One” vs. the “Many”

Let me start by posing a question:

Should we listen the advice of a single person or take the advice of a group of people for a specific topic?

In this question, the “One” would be a single person and “The Many” would be the group of people. What I find fascinating about this is individuals typically choose one of these two options when formulating an argument when discussing a topic. Personally, I think that this is a intricate question with many facets and varying answers. To help clarify this idea, I will illustrate this by analyzing several hypothetical situations. In these situations, we will see where influence of the “one” or  the “many” or a possibility where a mixture of both these ideas apply.

Health Advice – a situation where advice from “the one” is appropriate

In this scenario, let’s assume a person is having health issues regarding their body. Who’s advice should this person listen to? Should they listen to the advice of their group of friends, or should they listen to their family physician?

In this particular situation, I think that it’s fairly clear that the person would listen to their doctor as he or she is trained in assessing bodily issues and then finding the correct answer to remedy the problem.

Working on a project – a situation where the advice of “the many” makes sense

In this setting, let’s assume you’re a senior manager of a large company looking to build a new office tower as part of the company expansion plan. To keep things simple, let’s assume you have a team of four : an architect, an engineer, an contract administrator and a contractor. In designing the building blue prints, would it make sense just to take the advice of any one of these professionals or their combined group opinion?

I think that the clear answer here would be to take the advice of the group as the architect would have the best overall conceptual design idea; the engineer would give the best guidance regarding structural requirements,; the contracts administrator would give the best legal and budgetary instruction and lastly; the contractor would give the best practical building advice.

Purchasing Merchandise – a situation where a blended answer is suitable

Picture a scenario where you are purchasing a new camera from a retail store and have a very have basic level of understanding when it comes to cameras.  When making this purchase, should you listen to the advice of the sales person working in the store? Or do you listen to the advice of a group review posted on the internet dedicated to reviewing cameras? To add a third factor, what if you had a long term colleague that knew a lot about cameras from a technical standpoint?

For the sales person, it might not necessarily be a good idea to listen to their advice as they might give a biased opinion just to meet their personal sales targets. For the group review, it might make most sense to take this advice as it’s aggregated between the different people within the group, giving it a higher probability of being correct. In regards to the colleague, they will likely have the most honest opinion of the three groups discussed as they probably have an impartial view and will have your best interests in mind in suggesting a camera. To come to the best answer when making this purchase, I think it makes most sense to consider the group’s opinion and also incorporate the colleague’s impartial advice.



Wrapping up this article up, I really do hope that more people start to view advice & influence in this way if they are not already doing so.  I think this separation of the “one” compared to the “many” helps identify the parties involved, helping people come to the best possible conclusion on whichever topic they are looking at.


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