Archive for October, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

There has been some criticism from the mainstream media about the Occupy Wall Street movement and its lack of specific aims. I will respond to that by turning the question around; what are the specific aims of the world’s wealthiest 1% of the population?

As far as I am aware they haven’t issued any specific aims to the mainstream media for them to report but any switched on member of the public will be aware of the one unspoken aim of these people, namely, to make that 1% an even smaller figure. This can be inferred from their propensity to award themselves huge salary increases without any relation to their company performance (or anything else, for that matter). Therefore any link to ‘fairness’ is broken: they get richer simply because they can.

Why is that not criticised by the mainstream media? Ah yes, now I remember, the mainstream media is owned by the 1%.

So the non-specific ‘aims’ of the Occupy Wall Street movement are simply to stop that unacceptable figure of 1% from shrinking even further and to make it increase as rapidly possible so that more of the population can share the wealth.

Of course, the real reason that the mainstream media are criticising the movement in any way they can is fear. The Occupy Wall Street movement represents a growing awareness of the peoples own power. The 1% know this. The figure of 99% is a huge one. If the people it represents could organise themselves effectively, they would become an unstoppable force.

Why Bettakultcha has to replace Motivational Speakers

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

BK-t-shirt-1

Before I explain Bettakultcha, let’s look at the business of motivational speaking. The speaker’s brief is usually to ‘motivate’ the audience into working harder or smarter for the organization that hired them. The speakers are generally flown into an organization at great expense and with great fanfare. They are usually ‘experts’ of some kind in their field, but that expertise can be limited to just themselves—they have climbed a mountain or were born with some kind of disability. During their presentation it is their intention to beguile, harangue, seduce, enthrall, advise, inspire and lift the audience with their stories into a feel good, ‘can do’ mood. The very best are paid huge fees and speak internationally.

But how does this help the people in the audience? If the speaker has a unique story to tell then it can only be relevant to the typical audience member in an oblique and abstract way—if I can do it, you can too. The speaker is also, more often than not, a stranger to the organization that they’re speaking to and has no knowledge of the culture that exists within the organization.

If the speaker is able to raise the energy in the audience then they go away with their cheque and with their ego suitably bolstered. They have done something that is motivating in itself. The feel good mood in the audience, however, dissipates almost as soon as they re-enter the workplace—or the real life situation that they were seeking help for or were distracted from—by the presentation. Occasionally the speaker comes back to run various workshops to try and maintain some sort of momentum from their initial visit but the truth of the matter is this: just paying attention to people is what makes a difference—what kind of attention is largely irrelevant—it is the attention which gives the result. There’s even been a study done of the phenomenon and a name given to the effect: the Hawthorne effect.

If this is true, then you might as well hire a comedian as opposed to a motivational speaker for your conference (and in truth, most in-demand speakers are just good entertainers with aphorisms thrown in). The other truth is this: motivational speakers are motivating themselves. Motivational speakers get off on showing off their own motivation, by climbing a higher mountain than their competitors, by getting a higher fee than their competitors, by getting louder applause that their predecessors. That is not to deny that some are well intentioned, and genuinely want to help their fellow human beings.

The other problem with motivational talks is that we all like to be told what we want to hear: yes, you can be a millionaire… yes you have what it takes to climb a mountain… yes your value systems are correct… Well, if you only tell people what they want to hear, then you can’t be telling them anything new, you’re simply reinforcing old ideas but delivering them in novel packaging.

So how does Bettakultcha revolutionise motivational speaking?

The people who attend a Bettakultcha event can testify to the transformational power generated by the experience although they’re not quite sure what that power is. This is because the entire focus of the event shifts from ‘appointed speakers’ to volunteers from the audience. The audience, therefore, motivates itself.

Who are the experts?

If you are in an organization, then the person who is most qualified to speak to you about your organization is you… because you work there. The only consultants you should be hiring into your organization are facilitators, not speakers. Outside consultants have to start from scratch: any useful advice about the practical running of an organization that they can give is totally predicated on the culture existing within that organization, so they have to study the culture first. You already know the culture.

How does Bettakultcha motivate people?

The way you motivate people is by giving them real power, not by giving them a speech.

Good speakers follow certain techniques to engage with an audience and one of the best is direct engagement with an individual member of the audience. They ask a general question and then have a short conversation with whoever answers their question. They engage like this because they know it keeps the audience on their toes and involves them personally. From the audience member’s point of view, they will feel good about themselves for contributing to the proceedings and because they do actually mean something to the event – they count as a person.

Bettakultcha gives the audience real power because it actually lets them speak.

Bettakultcha empowers the audience by making them responsible for the event. If the good speaker is so concerned about making a connection with the audience, about empowering the audience, about motivating the audience, why doesn’t he or she relinquish control of the event? Become a spectator rather than a contributor? Surely, this is the desired outcome of a perfectly successful motivational speech? “A great leader makes the people think they had achieved everything by themselves”? The greatest outcome that any good speaker could wish for is to think ‘that was a good presentation; my work is done here; I have given the organization the tools to be able to progress without me.’

And as for the members of the organization who contribute to the event by presenting, how much more powerful is it to have these people in your organization for months on end inspiring and motivating the other workers instead of someone who visits for a couple of hours every year or so? Imagine the sense of community that this will engender—the workers will learn more about themselves and feel inspired by some of the stories they will hear from people they can chat with on a day-to-day basis.

And as previous presenters from Bettakultcha have told me, their sense of achievement after their presentation is intoxicating and gives them the confidence to attempt other things outside of their comfort zone.

From a managerial perspective, the presentations could give an indication of the morale within the organization and highlight some of the issues concerning the members. The management could even be alerted to potential skills and experience within their organization, which they had no idea existed and which might be utilized in the future.

The key to having a successful event, however, is the curation and delivery. It has to be perceived as a fun activity and one that is generally outside of the formal structure of the organization. The facilitator of the event then becomes crucial in this regard. To simply lift the format without regard for the above considerations is a recipe for disappointment.

If the future is going to require adaptable, capable, confident members of society, then there is no better place to find them than at a Bettakultcha event.