Have your meetings lost their “Muchness”?

March 24, 2014 Affective LeadershipAssociation InsightsEmotional IntelligenceVideo Samples

Have your meetings lost their muchness

If you would like your next event to be even more Wonder-Full? Take a few tips from Wonderland. Being a meeting planner or educator requires wearing the hats of author, illustrator, screen writer, director and actor to create experiences that both educate and entertain.

The most important outcome of any event is not in information shared, revenue generated or goals exceeded, but in the lasting stories we create.

Meaningful change is not the result of a single exposure to new ideas regardless of how compelling they might be. Lasting transformation comes from those stories that resonate in our minds and we share with others.

Like the story of Alice’s adventures written by Lewis Carroll almost 150 years ago, great events provide enduring lessons and a wonder-land experience, while mediocre events leave attendees wondering why they ever came.

Turn your next meeting into an unforgettable classic by applying these key lessons from this literary masterpiece.

Setting the Stage
Alice had been to Wonderland as a small child but she remembered it only as a dream. Upon her return, now as a young woman, she was soon reunited with her friend the Hatter played by Johnny Depp. There had been some debate as to whether this was “The” Alice, but as soon as the Hatter saw her he knew. “It’s absolutely Alice! You’re absolutely Alice! I’d know you anywhere. Then after some reflection he noticed a difference. “You’re not the same as you were before,” he said. “You were much more…muchier…you’ve lost your muchness.”

This made me wonder if I had lost some of my muchness on the stage. In my early years as a professional speaker  I was known not just for my red high-top Converse, but also for my use of unusual teaching aids. A dental syringe, stop light, poison stickers, magic tricks and my favorite – a huge meat cleaver which I used to chop yardsticks into little tiny pieces. The whole yardstick represents the full measure of belief we have in ourselves as children, our muchness.

Each chop then was a self- inflicted limit. Blame whack, regret whack, worry whack, I am not good enough, smart enough, old enough, young enough, whack, whack, whack. With each thunderous chop pieces of yardstick flew in every direction.This was not only a great way to get everyone’s full attention, but the anchoring effect cemented life-changing lessons to an unforgettable experience. Granted the meat cleaver may have been too much, and considering the current state of airline security I can’t imagine how I would explain it in my carryon luggage today; but when we take ourselves too seriously we risk losing our muchness.

It is easier, safer and vastly more comfortable to fit in and become like the Red Queen’s cronies who hid behind Randy Morgan CSP uses lessons from Alice in Wonderland to add more "muchness" to meetingsexaggerated paste-on body parts (to match the queens enormous head) to be part of the inner circle. I think this is why the Alice in Wonderland screenwriters created the fanciful word “muchness” instead of “moreness”. Muchness is the greatness we are born with while moreness is a disease of mediocrity. Conformity is moreness, more of the same pretending to be different. Rollo May, an American existential psychologist, once said that the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.

If we want to regain our own, one of a kind muchness, we can start by taking a tip given to Alice by her father, which she later shared with the Hatter and now I am sharing with you. When the Hatter asked Alice if he had gone mad, she responded “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

If you haven’t gone entirely bonkers lately, maybe you should. Maybe your muchness is just waiting for you as Alice’s was waiting for her. Forget about what anybody else does or says or what you believe is even possible. All Alice had to do was to believe in herself. The impossible is always impossible until someone believes it isn’t. Start tomorrow because, as the Queen reminded us, you may be out of practice. Try being unreasonable for one half hour each day. You may find that there are days when you might believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela

Ideas in action:
Use this movie as a project for your team. Have them watch it on their own or in a group and follow up with a truly meaning-full meeting. Use the characters, challenges and lessons to explore new ways of thinking about your events and your team as a whole. This is not a productive setting for personal attacks or labeling. This should be a conversation about the entire team or process. If there are revealing critical comparisons they should be handled in private. What you are looking for are systemic issues not personal problems. Remember, 80% of service breakdowns are systemic in nature.

Use pictures or props from the movie to stimulate creativity. i.e. Pass around a shrinking drink and ask how do we “shrink” from perceived threats? Or use the growing cake to start a conversation about the things that make us too big for our britches. If this seems like a big waste of time, remember that most groups are not creative and most meetings are not productive. Use the power of play to encourage team members to cut through the layers of political correctness to get to the heart of peak performance. Playful words such as “muchness” encourage playful ideas, playful ideas encourage playful solutions, playful solutions create playful progress.

More Meaning-Full conversation starters:

  1. How do we make our meetings “muchier”?

  2. How do we add muchness to our marketing (Read Behind the Cloud for jaw dropping ideas)

  3. What impossible things have we done this lately?

  4. When is the last time we went truly bonkers?

  5. How are we like or unlike the Red Queen’s court?

  6. Are we too quick to lop off the heads of those who disagree with us?

  7. How do we create a Wonderland experience for our next event?

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