A ramble about Flash Mobs and Complexity

Posted by  admin —July 13, 2009
Filed in Uncategorized

Euan Semple has a blog called The Obvious and every now and then he writes something that helps me to articulate stuff that I am thinking about (and grappling with).

In his post ‘Why Michael Jackson Smart Mobs made me so Emotonal‘, Euan writes about this video in which Flash Mobs dance to Michael Jackson music. Go and watch it.

“Flash mobs start with a few text messages to friends to gather at a public place.  Usually there’s an action planned.  Something simple and direct that would also draw in anyone who just happened to be around.”

Euan starts by saying that watching Flash Mobs like these ones move him emotionally. Why?

“There is something about people working together on something complicated without overt direction that seems to trigger profound feelings. Its like it is a basic human instinct, or at least potential, that kicks in when we experience it or even simply watch it happening. What a shame that we have been conditioned to think that without intervention the world starts to fall apart.” Euan Semple

So what’s this got to do with my work and your? Everything.

Flash Mobs are a great example of a group of people who simply show up with some kind of action in mind. No one is leading them and there is no strategic plan giving directions and a set of desired outcomes. Each of them operates with respect, autonomy and fully are engaged in what they are doing.

I agree with Euan when he observes that many of his clients feel disconcerted (when Flash Mob behaviour is observed around them) and “they feel the need of a plan and predicted outcomes”.

When engaged by clients to facilitate a gathering of people, there is one discussion I always have early on. That discussion is about the futility of having a rigid plan that we adhere to during the workshop. Of course we need direction and purpose … BUT … nearly all workshops that I run do not go as planned. Why? Because you cannot know in advance where a group needs to go. Uncomfortable for many? Yes. Essential for success? Absolutely!

So maybe our workshop participants are better viewed as Flash Mobs? Our role is to hold a space and engage the people who show up. (and paraphrasing Euan in this next bit) Allow them to work collectively to use their skills and insights to deal with whatever happens next.


Leave a Reply