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Commitment, Communication and Choreography

How can understanding the art of flashing make a huge difference to your workplace? 44’s Elizabeth Mullenger offers some surprising insights…

In 2003 Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, performed a social experiment when he covertly arranged for Macy’s to be the first victim of a flash mob[1].

This first ‘flash’ saw more than 100 people converging on the sales floor to view the same item – a $10,000 rug – before dispersing as quickly as they had arrived, no doubt upsetting many a commission-hungry salesperson.

Today, flash mobs generally take the form of strategic choreography; coordinated dances performed by hundreds of people who seemingly appear out of nowhere, before rapidly disappearing once the routine has finished.

Trusting your teammates

Take a moment to imagine the kind of organisation this involves. Not only does every dancer have to learn a perfectly-synced routine in secret, but they also have to be in the right place at exactly the right time. And crucially, they need to trust their fellow dancers will suddenly appear when the music begins.

It’s this trust which puts flash mobs firmly in the ‘I’ll do it only if my mate does it too’ camp – the kind of nerve-wracking public performance that’s so much easier to handle when holding your best friend’s hand, whether literally or metaphorically.

Trust also comes into play when you consider the main point of a flash mob – keeping it under wraps until the last possible moment. The entire success of the ‘flash’ depends on it surprising everyone; forcing them to stop in their tracks and pay attention to something astonishing, while subtly absorbing the marketers’ message.

Gaining commitment

That’s why the secret to a successful ‘flash’ is 100% commitment throughout. From the initial brief to the final product, each person in the group plays an integral role in performing the action and reaping the rewards.

The parallels with any workplace project are clear – although a little less theatrical. Consider your next big communications task. Can you be sure that every single person not only knows what they need to do, but feels passionate about it too?

Do they feel they have accountability for their role? And is that awareness and attitude creating a culture of commitment from everyone involved?

Maintaining commitment

That’s just the start though. When a project is new, innovative and exciting, it’s easy to get colleagues to sign up. However, as time passes, more innovative projects arrive on the desk, and it falls to you to maintain the interest and excitement levels for all projects – not just the ‘loudest’ ones.

And that’s where the overall vision comes in. Do your colleagues know what success looks like? Do they understand how what they’re doing delivers real benefits for your organisation or audience? Are you showing how the project is making a difference?

Surprise, sensation and style are all admirable qualities, but if they’re not backed up with substance and a clear rationale, your communication moves will never be more than a flash in the pan.


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