How Often Do We Put People In a Box?

Here’s the scene:

A full day workshop with 40 generation y’rs in the advertising industry in Fort Worth Texas.  We have been hired to provide training on the topics of Improving your Productivity and Supervision/Team Coaching.  My co-leader, Eve,  and I have built what we believe to be a fantastic day of learning, fun and training.  It includes a great balance of information (lecture), interactions, exercises and … well I was finally persuaded to incorporate a short body movement/dancing exercise.   Both of us being German (she more so than me as she has just moved here from Dusseldorf vs my father who was born in Germany), we believe that this heritage will counteract any “touchy-feely”,  California “woo woo” potential reaction during our day.

Yet, in our possession, we have the follow:  a glass jar, a bag of sand, 75 rocks and a Balinese gong.   The rocks, sand and jar for an exercise and the gong to keep time during the day.  This made for very interesting conversation while being searched in airport security.

We round the corner into old historic Fort Worth and I continue to explain to the cab driver that this can’t possibly be where we’re going.   What we see is indeed historic.  A preserved ranch town with what appear to be real cowboys, hats, boots…..saloon. etc.  Outloud Eve says “here come the Californians with a  hippy dippy balinese gong”.  I simply think  – we’re going to get slaughtered by the young Texans.

And in reality, what happened?  Well here are a few things:

  • In an exercise on creating agreements and an alliance in a team scenario, one of the team’s mission is a “Nap Room”.  It include new age music, incense, candles, various aromatic spices, a nice zen-like atmosphere and a place where people could meditate and or do yoga.
  • The HR Director was open about wanting to steal our Balinese gong.
  • A few entered the room late when we were doing the body movement/dancing exercise and quickly exclaimed “Awesome!  I love this stuff”.

It  was a huge hit.  So what’s the learning here?   Well, lots for me.

I ponder at how easily and quickly we put people into boxes.  Often subconsciously.  And often it’s to try and understand.  Yes, it’s great to anticipate what an audience will be receptive to.  That’s just smart.  But when we anticipate what people might do based on our assumptions about them, we may create unnecessary limitations on the impact we could have.  We may be putting up an unnecessary obstacle.

And what was the feedback?  Well, overall great!  And each person had their own unique takeaway, their own likes and dislikes.  Of course!  We are unique individuals.

What a great reminder to stay open to what is instead of what could be.  And to remember that as much as we are demographically, psychographically, socio-economically, or in this case regionally etc part of a certain group, we are much more than that.  We are unique individuals.

To my dear Texas friends – thank y’all for the great reminder :-).

P.S.  Only 2 people didn’t enjoy the dancing.

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