Working in the field of diversity and inclusion, I am often asked what can be done to increase the number of under-represented people in engineering. One of the things I find helpful to reference in conversations about this is the spheres of influence model.
The spheres of influence model is a useful tool that can be applied to many areas of work. It urges us to act in areas that we can directly control or influence. It encourages us not to waste time and energy on things that we cannot control or influence.
It allows people of all levels of seniority to envisage actions that can realistically be taken to reach a goal. This is done by creating a series of small steps which is usually easier than imaging an enormous leap from the current situation to the end goal.
Your sphere of direct control
If you imagine that you’re at the centre of a sphere, everything within it is the world around you that you are in total control of.
This is where you can make direct changes without reference to anybody or anything else. Your own values, beliefs and motivations determine your behaviour.
Your sphere of influence
Moving outwards, you enter a second concentric sphere. This is where you can exert your soft power, your influence or persuasion to get other people to behave in ways which further your beliefs or goals. Depending on your professional role and your seniority, this could give you a significant reach.
Your sphere of aspirational influence
Further out again is the sphere in which you cannot necessarily influence in your current role. Here, for example, might be actions you would like those in positions of power to take.
Whilst you do not necessarily have control or influence over this area, it is useful to imagine what you would like to happen here. Having these actions in mind will help you exert your influence if you ever get the opportunity to.
Your sphere of negligible influence
The final outer sphere represents an area where you have negligible influence. Here you could put widely held societal beliefs and norms. These would be very difficult, although not impossible, to change. Change in this zone requires serious commitment and momentum on a national or even global level.