Why Unreal Experiences Can Create Real Results

I hope your new year has started off with as much energy as mine has! January is filled with trips to San Antonio, TX; Natchez, MS; Tampa, FL; and of course many wonderful opportunities right here in Atlanta.

Now that we’re well into the new year, we’ve reached the point where most of the resolutions have already been broken. Old habits, processes, and prejudices die hard.

That’s certainly not to say that change doesn’t have a timeline; it certainly does. But effective change happens on meaningful timelines, not arbitrary ones. People do not achieve a new paradigm in their thinking simply because the date has rolled over on the calendar any more than they would because the mileage rolled over on the odometer.

The Burning Platform Model
Are you awaiting rescue from a burning platform?

One familiar concept in change management circles is the “burning platform” model. This model presents the motivation to change as existing in tension with situation’s inertia using the imagery of a person standing on a platform in the ocean. If the platform catches fire, the person will start by holding out hope of either the fire going out or otherwise being rescued before ever considering the saving action of jumping into the water – because the long jump and cold water seem rather uncomfortable and frightening. Ultimately, the person only jumps when the fear of jumping is outweighed by the pain of staying on the burning platform. Thus, many organizational or even personal changes can be modeled to a degree by asking, “What’s the burning platform?”

As with all models, hordes of consulting professionals have made good livings by extending and over-extending the metaphors. One reason the model may fail, for example, is if the people on the platform are genuinely unaware that the platform is actually on fire at all. Perhaps their prior experiences do not include fire, or perhaps they’ve only seen flames on candles and cakes, never on a large structure. To them, the fire isn’t an issue – it may not even seem real. The real situation is, in their eyes, an unreal experience. They are destined for change whether they wish it or not; however, if they do not develop a new way of looking at things, they will experience painful and disorderly change that could have been avoided. The flawed perception created by those preconceptions is one example of an unreal situation that will have real consequences.

Here’s the other side of the coin. If the preconceptions within the mind represent an unreal experience with real consequences of a negative nature, can we use other types of unreal experiences to create real positive changes in perception and action? My experiences as a corporate magician and mentalist – as well as the results my clients have experienced at trade shows and conferences around the world – say that we can.

Although what we call the experience of “magic” is created through the use of theatrical illusion techniques, that experience has a real psychological and emotional effect. Unusual, impossible experiences can force people to attend to information that they would otherwise have ignored. The real result is that the message penetrates the armor of indifference and prejudice, sticking to the memories of people who weren’t even planning to pay attention.

Creating an unusual, fun experience, while delivering meaningful information in a way that sticks… this is the essence of the “Rethink the Impossible” keynote, as well as much of the customized sales and trade show presentation “magic” that I do. Getting people to look at their situations in a different way – helping them to to identify burning platforms and innovative solutions – this is the power of a presentation that interrupts not just the patterns people are used to seeing in their professions, but also the patterns that they are used to experiencing in their daily lives. Magic, when given a meaning, is an unforgettable learning tool.

This year, let’s leverage the impact of impossible visual and psychological experiences to get the right messages across to your target audiences!



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