So I thought I’d download a few thoughts……
I’ve just got back from spending a long weekend at the Download Festival at Donnington Park. Loud music. And the great and the good of the rock-loving public, all 40,000 of them (although I lost count at about 136).
So why would I be writing about such an event here, on what is effectively supposed to be a business blog? Because, as you all know, my colleagues and I at Blue Bamboo are fascinated by people – what they do, how they do it, what outcomes they get and why they do it. And at Download there was plenty of opportunity to observe and reflect on a really amazing bunch of people…..
And there were thousands of people to observe: from the ‘old rockers of latter day saints’ club, young pretenders from the ‘we can scream louder than you’ gang, children showing off new wellies, babies showing off new fluffy hair and bright eyes straining in the afternoon sun, families, musicians, fans, writers, poets, priests, short people, long people, square people, trend setters, commercial directors, painters, sales people and wannabies – and ME with my 15year old and his mobile phone seemingly grafted into his hand.
The inspiration for this blog is my curiosity about paradox: it seems that when you put that many people in one place there’s not a lot you can do to police them, to control them or influence them to behave in any particular way. There’s simply too many. So a strange thing happened: with the lightest touch of an ever-present security team, people gravitated towards a common expression, a shared set of behaviours, a similar attitude. With no real direction from the festival management or security teams, people found a consensus: to simply have a good time, be nice to each other, acknowledge and respect (though not really notice or comment on) the magical diversity of human beings.
I wanted to write about this gift of a metaphor: how, in certain circumstances, people can find their own way to live harmoniously, behave excellently and get what they wanted even though individuals no doubt had different personal agendas.
How can this provide a parallel to the world of business and to team dynamics I wonder? In some sense, it’s obvious: when people – everybody get permission to do what they want, we recognise that each person has the same right. So it becomes a shared goal to support each other’s goals, knowing that everyone is doing the same thing for each other. It’s a sort of mutual ‘get what you want’ theme.
Furthermore, it’s even more curious to note that individual goals also share similarities. The NLP concept of ‘chunks’ of information and the ‘hierarchy of ideas’ both point to an apparent truism: that there appears to be a place, at least at some point in the hierarchy, where we all share a common purpose.
When businesses and teams go looking for this ‘higher’ chunk, this shared purpose, they often find it. It seems that disagreement and conflict often arise from arguments about ‘how’ to get to a goal. When we focus on ‘what’ we want – and how exiting it is to recognise how much we share in terms of common purpose and vision – the ‘how to get there’ debate becomes more of a creative surge, rather than an opportunity to express entrenched, subjective opinions.
As well as returning home with ACDC, Bullet for My Valentine and Rage Against the Machine still reverberating in my head, I was left with an enduring hope for the future: that people are capable of amazing things when they give themselves, and others, permission to get what they want. In our own way, all of us at Download were living some important principles that are found embedded in NLP: there’s always a positive intention behind every behaviour and a focus on ‘what’ and ‘why’ is the necessary pre-cursor to our ‘how’ strategies. Interesting where we find our most useful learning experiences, isn’t it?