Have you figured out what "dying city" I was referring to in my blog earlier this week? If you guessed Grand Rapids, Michigan, you're right! Newsweek (later republished in The Daily Beast) chose Grand Rapids (often referred to as "Bland Rapids") for this dubious honor among other cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, and Cleveland.
While such negative reporting is often brushed off as insignificant or unimportant, a 22-year old in Grand Rapids took it very personally. Was his hometown really as bad as the media was reporting? He didn't think so...
Free-lance author, Stephen Kloosterman tells the story of Rob Bliss, an Internet Coordinator for a local TV station, who decided to pull together over 4,000 individuals from the community to paint a different picture of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Their picture of Grand Rapids is one where a diverse group of indivuduals, while appearing to be quite ordinary, prove to be very interesting. Each of these individuals make an important contribution to the community. These contributions add up to something that the third party observer might call odd or eclectic, but definetly not "dead." There is energy and life in Grand Rapids--outsiders are just not aware of it.
To communicate this story to these disbelieving outsiders, Rob decided to develop a lip-dub video. A lib-dub video is a low-budget production where a stream of indivuduals are shot in one continuous take as they are lip-synching a song. For his video, he decided to use Don McLean's 1971 song "American Pie."
The result..a viral internet success receiving over 4 million views on YouTube. After the video started to gain traction, it got another siginificant boost when film critic, Roger Ebert, called it "the greatest music ever made." This is amazing commentary for a place that was supposed to be dead! Take a look for yourself and see what you think:
While the video was a huge success, Rob didn't stop there. He went on to help Grand Rapids organize the world's largest pillow fight and construct the world's longest water slide. The common thread...he has as knack for helping a bunch of "ordinary people" realize that they have something special and significant when they work together.
What is the lesson for your company or team in all of this? I believe there are several:
- Don't listen to the national critics. If Rob would have just focused on what the national media told him, his creativity would have never taken root. Yes, the real estate industry market is depressed in many areas, but what is the reality on your team? Make the good things that are happening right in front of you your focus.
- People love to see others working together. This is the genius of what Rob discovered. Are there opportunities in your community where your company (or just your team) can be seen working together? Last summer in the Seattle market, Starbucks coordinated an event where their employees all pitched in and cleaned up the morning after the 4th of July celebration at Gasworks Park in downtown Seattle. The local media noticed and highlighted their efforts in various news venues. This is exactly the type of press you want to receive.
- Don't think you need a big budget. None of the ideas presented in this discussion required a large budget. How much money does it take to pick up trash or start a pillow fight? Not much. There are lots of low-budget ideas out there--you just need to find them.
You can't run a business or a team unless you have a sense of purpose, excitment and energy. People will not be drawn to or stay with an organization that does not have this critical component.
Editor's Note: This article was written by Ben Hess. Ben is the Founding Partner and Managing Director of Tidemark, Inc. and a regular contributor to WorkPuzzle. Comments or questions are welcome. If you're an email subscriber, reply to this WorkPuzzle email. If you read the blog directly from the web, you can click the "comments" link below.