Tuesday, June 11, 2013

When Educating Doesn't Work

I used to sell computers at Circuit City. Their hiring test said I'd be great at it. I wasn't, for one reason: I tried to educate people. I would try to teach them why one computer was different from another, and how certain characteristics were better for one use then another. I'd even leave them with a simple choice: "buy X for gaming, buy Y for business stuff.”

That was too much. It wasn't until much later that I realized they wanted to tell me what they wanted to do, then have me point to a single computer and tell them to buy it. Why did I make this mistake? I'm a highly cerebral intellectual. I want to know about the man behind the curtain. And, erroneously, I assume others do as well.

This is a problem we face in information security today. While less technical people – the sales person at your local mattress firm, say – may not really try and educate, but simply settle for influencing you, we try to educate on the honest belief that educated people will make the right decision. However, that’s not how it works. People buy what they want first, then (maybe) what they think they need second.

What we should do is try to influence them. Our job is to make them want what they need and think it's their idea. This doesn't mean giving them what they ask for. That would be the exact opposite of influencing. Instead, we want to change what they want, in order to align with what is best for them from an infosec standpoint.

The next time you’re trying to get a client or customer to take a certain action, don’t forget to influence. At the end of the day, you may even be able to influence them to want to be educated.  But the first task is to do what is right by them and that will probably require influencing them first.

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