From passive consumption to active co-creation

by Didier Marlier on Friday September 27th, 2013

For those of us who still doubt that co-creating clarity, meaning and ownership is an energy catalyst and that submitting our people to a passive consumption of powerpoints is a must, I suggest you watch this amazing and short video…

What was to be a kind surprise to the newly crowned heroes of a Turkish basketball team (inviting them to a surprise celebration of their new title) also turned out to be a convincing demonstration of worse and best practices for leaders wanting to engage their people into supporting their new strategy, organization, culture or post acquisition merger.

These professional basketball players were “invited” (and just like in business life, when receiving an invitation of the C.E.O., one is well advised to enthusiastically accept) to a classical music concert at the Opera, as a token of gratitude of their President for the title they had just conquered.

Observe on the video, the body language of the players during the first part of the show: one can read a blend of embarrassment, anxiety or boredom. One feels ill at ease for the players, the other spectators and those who invited them. Why are they like this?

The answer comes back a few instants later when, all of the sudden the rhythm of the music changes and the anthem of the team is being played. All of the sudden the lights are switched on in the room and the players are surrounded by cheerful supporters of the club who came to thank them for this new title. Now this all makes sense. Look how the body language, posture, physiognomy and facial expression of the players radically changes. From disengaged and passive, their energy and enthusiasm are back…

Here is my invitation to you now: The next time you are on the pitch, seeking to engage your people, observe them well. Do they display the same attitude than the players at the beginning or during the second part of the concert?

  • Gleneagles syndrome: Clarity creates energy. And in the case, the players do not understand why they are there. They were requested to dress-up, come and sit. And the result is very visible on their engagement level. Would you trust those people to be able to preach the new religion and mobilize their people to follow the new strategy that your colleagues of the Board and you came up with? How many of our people feel the same way when joining a large convention when “the news” will be announced. How much space do we provide them to assimilate the new vision that we try to communicate. Remember what we call the Gleneagles syndrome. It is named after a famous resort in Scotland (which even hosted the G7) where British Management teams used to go and discuss about their new strategy. There, they were at ease and comfortable, away from the traditional and dialogue unfriendly Board room settings… There they had time to join, disband, reflect with their “allies”, confront their skeptics or “enemies” face to face… They spent a full week reflecting and letting emerge, little by little, some kind of a compromise in which they all ended up passionately believing. And off they went to the powerpoint drawing board, dreaming that their people would be engaged in one hour sessions when it took them days to engage themselves. It is our duty to co-create clarity, meaning and ownership around the changes that we want to communicate.
  • Abilene Paradox: Guess what would have been the comments amongst the players, the day after the concert, if nothing had come to interrupt it? They would all have resented to have sat there, as passive victims, getting increasingly bored and wondering who had had this brilliant idea. Little by little, blame and finger pointing would have started to appear, people would be criticizing each other for not having dared to speak-up and leave the Hall. The same happens in business and creates passive-aggressive reactions in the audience, both very destructive. The Abilene paradox was a term a la mode in the 80’s and 90’s, brought by a Harvard professor, describing a bored and disengaged Texan family playing domino on a Summer hot Sunday afternoon. “To make conversation” the grandfather asks: “Should we take the car and drive to Abilene”? It is very obvious from the lack of enthusiasm that nobody is keen on the idea. However, no one wants to say “No” to the old man and, colluding and lacking courage, they all end up going. Upon returning, the blame game starts… If we wish to keep politics, aggressions, unhealthy skepticism or cynicism at bay, engaging our people by encouraging them to speak up is a must.
  • Unsettling settings: Asking professional basketball players to join an Opera House and cram into seats made for the common of the 1.80m mortal, expecting them to dress-up, is not the best way to have them at their ease and be at their best. “Leadership is about creating conditions for others to do and be their best”… How well do we create conditions for others to shine and engage in the traditional convention venues of Board (Bored) rooms?

I liked this clip as the contrast between disengagement and engagement is very visible and the only difference is made when the players suddenly can make sense of why they were requested to be there, stop being passive victims if circumstances and find themselves in an environment far more conducive to energy sharing than it was before.

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2 Responses to “From passive consumption to active co-creation”

  1. really great clip – challenge to all of us as leaders and counsel to leaders … is there engagement or not? and how do we honor those who really deliver in a way that they feel truly honored. Magnificent!

    • Thanks Bob, indeed, moving an audience from passive consumption to active co-creation…


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