Brussels changemakers start-up weekend

Lot’s of people talk about helping to change society but not enough actually do anything about it. The next start-up weekend in Brussels is Nov 13-15th and it focuses on creating change. 54 hours of working on the development of ideas that could take us closer to a society and an economy which is more sustainable. One of the organisers asked me to share a few thoughts for those attending (and perhaps a few who weren’t planning on it).

A different way to spend your weekend

First, here is the link for those who would like to get involved http://www.up.co/communities/belgium/brussels/startup-weekend/5870 . I know quite a few people who are involved in the organisation of this and probably quite a few of the attendees also. What I can assure you is that it will be fun and that is where change starts!

I guess this is the first point I would like to emphasis. The reason why you do something is crucial. Some people want to change society as they fundamentally believe that we are on a path to self-destruction. They can spend hours quoting all of the “facts” to reinforce their argument. They sometimes make the mistake of thinking that because they are “right”, everyone should believe them and join their movement. This type of rational argument is not what engages people to act. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog where I included this video to POC21 which is all around action, similar to what this start-up weekend is about.

What I didn’t like about the video was that it started by sending negative vibes. We’re all screwed, the situation is probably hopeless but nevertheless, let’s do lots of great things to try and slow down our demise.

It’s about knowing your audience. The people who are already convinced won’t care, they will act anyway. The people who couldn’t care less as they are only focused on their own survival are likely to react badly to such a video. That leaves the people who care but are currently passive. Those people are more likely to react positively to something positive. It is true that as the video progresses, it shows some of the positive stuff but there is a chance people will switch off before they get to that point.

If you want to create change, know your audience.

All aboard

A couple of years ago, I was leading a change project within a large company which had the objective or redefining part of the business model and diversifying the revenue base. I got lots of executive and senior management support from within the company and was able to go off and recruit a team to help drive it forward. This was a fantastic learning experience for me. Collaborative economy BelgiumI was naive in thinking that because the guys at the top of the company seemed to support what my team and I were doing, that it would succeed. The customers we were working with were also happy with the way the program was progressing. Happy customers + happy management = success.  It was a mistake to think that.

The impact we were hoping to create had the potential of effecting a lot of people in the company beyond the management and customers. We didn’t engage them on the change journey which meant that there was a lot of resistance to what we were trying to do. Whenever they had the opportunity, they found ways to undermine what we were doing. That was when I learnt the expression “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside of the tent pissing in”. It’s not the most beautiful of images I admit, but very true. When trying to create change, you need to search for ways of including the people who least want that change. This start-up weekend has the potential to do that. I hope that some of the attendees are actually skeptical about the ideas as this will enrich their development.

Understanding impact and success

Those experiences in big organisations also thought me to be clearer on the impact I was hoping to create and what success would look like. I had a very clear idea in my head of what success would look like. It was so clear, that I became too focused on the destination and forgot about the journey. I ended up loosing a few of my team members along the way as they didn’t feel engaged in getting to the same destination. Again, a great learning experience for me. It may well be that the greatest success of this start-up weekend is not related to the actual outcome of any of the projects which are launched.

Imagine that there are 100 people who care and are passive who become convinced that now is the time to act as a result of this weekend. One of them may go off and start a whole new project which could end up creating more impact than what is actually achieved in the 54 hours from 13-15th Nov. My advise to the organisers and attendees is to retain a little objectivity when there. When we are surrounded by lots of “like minded” people, we sometimes get sucked in and start thinking that everyone thinks like us. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy where everyone convinces each other about the solution they all believe in and are co-creating. My suggestion is that the success of the weekend is as much about the impact it creates on the people not attending as it is on the people who are.

This video was shown to a bunch of school kids at a session I attended last week (more to come on that) … The goal was to inspire them to think differently. For those attending and for the passive people who care, perhaps it may inspire you to think differently too

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