October 4, 2019

The Surprising Things That We Do To Each Other

I felt a pang of sadness, as I watched them chat and laugh and furiously scribble notes (or lean back and write nothing at all).

They were simply enjoying being together.

This person and that person, who might never have met before.
But who were now fascinatingly thrust together in this setting labelled “Workshop”.

I was sad because, well, I would miss what they had brought to my life.

Being with them, ever so briefly, had been a joy and a surprising adventure of learning.
This group, this gathering of lives and journeys and joys and heartaches and individual adventures…
This was the eleventh – and last – group that I would speak to in this series of all-day workshops.

And then I would wander home.
Without them.

I had come prepared to teach and show… things that I believed would influence their lives.
And I had left almost every one of these boisterous gatherings with new knowledge and wisdom that would influence me.

I, one of the speakers, had been merely a guide.
Each face gazing at me in the room was a hero.

I would go home, having imparted my little piece of knowledge.
Perhaps even some wisdom?
(Who knows? But believing so gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling)

They would leave this gathering, to return to their roles as heroes in the arena of business.
Vanquishing the foes, receiving new powers, and trying to win the prize.
Surviving and thriving.

Each one would be a Frodo, bearing the impossible weight of The One Ring.
I, and the other presenters, merely their Gandalf, showing them a better path through the Wilderness.

We had touched each other’s lives.
And we had done so in mere moments.

What had we been discussing?
Well, we’d been discussing the power of Culture.
The power that Culture has to – inadvertently – shape the future of every business.
Of every life.

We’d been looking at the power of an environment to change the way that we all behave.

We’d shared with them the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Where – for just a few days – the university had created a simulated prison…
using students as prisoners and guards.

The results had shocked the world.

It certainly shocked each of us, unsuspecting folk, innocently gathered to learn.

I’d shared with them what our youngest daughter, Briony, had shared with me.
That an audience of 1,000 theatre-goers could – and did every evening – take on single group behaviour.
And could do that in minutes.
Nay, in seconds.

We’d chuckled together, when we realised that this room – this gathering of our busy business teams…
this gathering had quickly taken on a group behaviour.
A culture.

Then – now that we had each other’s attention…
We saw how one man – one man! – could change the culture – the future – of a sports team.

One man – in this case, David Brailsford – could help a team rise from the seeming runt-of-the-litter in their sport
to become majestic world beaters.

The team that others would gape at in wonder and envy.

We saw how maybe, just maybe, we could emulate Brailsford’s performance in our businesses.
And we saw the Transformation that is possible.

A Transformation that is entirely probable, when we learn to give heed to the Culture we’re creating.
Then re-design that culture to create the future that we really, really want.

Well, 11 workshops in 11 cities/towns, crammed into 20 days.
It was never going to be easy, or less than exhausting.

But standing there in Bristol, looking at that final sea of faces… looking at me, looking at them…
I knew that I was going to miss their influence.
Their laughing banter, their piercing questions, their surprising insights.

The Culture that we had created in our very brief time together.

And I knew I would travel home…
Richer because of them.
Because of their influence on me.

May our businesses do that to others.
May we do that regularly. constantly.

Then the world will be a more glorious place indeed.