I’m in Geneva today running a communications workshop and looking foolish as I struggle to get the hang of buses: how to pay, how to open bus doors and so on.
In the UK, I’m used to travelling on buses and helping puzzled-looking tourists who press buttons and ask drivers questions. Today the tables are reversed.
I’m used to red buttons on bus poles being to signal the driver to stop at the next bus-stop. Here, they open the doors. I’ve no idea what the blue buttons are – possibly to close the doors?
In the UK, I get on the bus and have to show the driver some form of ticket in most buses. Here, none.
I’m sure that to everyday users of the buses I look foolish. Don’t I understand what the red button’s for? It was clearly designed and it’s role is evident in the Swiss context.
And I regularly see similar things in organisations. Because from an internal perspective, most organisational processes make lots of sense (most, not all). Yet few people in organisations are able to put their internal views and patterns aside to see it from outsiders (or customers) perspectives.
At the core of this is the fact that we are the stars of our own stories. Our organisations are the focus of their stories. And anyone else plays a passing bit role in that drama.
Yet where an organisation wants someone to react or engage in a certain way, it can’t afford to relegate that person to a bit role. Instead, it needs to find ways of understanding that person’s story – and seeing its own role as a bit part.