The Stanford Prison Experiment is an extremely popular experiment in social psychology. It featured normal people taking on the role of prisoners and guards. And most importantly, it featured fights, abuse, dehumanization, nervous breakdowns, bullying, and more. Despite a series of dubious practices, for decades it was considered a legitimate study.
The BBC Prison Study is a not-quite-as-popular experiment in social psychology. It featured normal people taking on the role of prisoners and guards. And most importantly, it featured camaraderie, compassion, some moderate conflict over food, negotiation, the institution of a commune, and long discussions on how to govern the whole group. Despite the fact it was reality TV, it led to a number of academic papers that were eventually accepted in official psychology curricula.
The point is, not always the story that is closer to facts and reality is the most popular. A story just has to be repeated enough times to become plausible, and when that happens, it is very difficult to later convince people it was a hoax, and actually things work in a different way.
This is something we know.
And it is our responsibility as marketers, advertisers, communicators, and change-seekers, to use such power with great care.
If after 15 months of covid crisis your organization does not have a plan to promote virtual get-togethers with colleagues, it failed.
If the only meetings are work-related meetings, if the participants rarely are from outside your team, if 1-1s keep being cancelled and postponed – because, you know, managers are busy -, it failed.
If there are no conversations around mental health, well-being, separation between work and personal life. If it is not offering some sort of incentives for therapy. It failed.
If the only times the company and the teams meet, it is the managers doing the talking, and all the other employees listening, it failed.
If what gets rewarded is still achieving personal goals, if cooperation is not actively stimulated, if teams are just a way to build walls rather than a way to reach out and help, it failed.
Just because your numbers are cool, it does not mean your people are too.
If you have not understood this during the past 15 months, you’ll probably never get it.
Acting as if you are superior – because you know more, because you are more integrated, because you are more skilled, because you are righteous – will most likely achieve little.
Leveraging your (supposed) superiority to elevate others, on the other hand, has the power to change behavior, improve lives, and spread around you. Of course, the action assumes that you do not feel superior at all. Few have the capabilities to take this stance.
Can you ask somebody to help you?
Can you put your ego aside and recognize that somebody else might have a perspective on a matter that would actually improve your own understanding?
Can you step on your fear and embarrassment and ask a simple question that might unlock tremendous progress?
Can you suspend your judgment and assumptions and open yourself to listening to what the other has to say?
Can you accept that somebody would care as much as you do?
Help is the most precious thing there is, for all the parties involved.
We do not leverage that enough in business and organizations.
When you are down, reach out.
Even if you don’t feel like it.
Even if you have nothing to say.
Even if you don’t know.
Even if your instict tells you not to risk it.
Even if you are sure nobody would understand.
Even when it’s pouring.
Even when you have been rejected before.
Even if they don’t care.
Connection might well be the single thing that will keep us afloat. Seek it and cultivate it. Even when you don’t feel like it.