Shared Experiences. Because it’s no fun to _____ by yourself.
Jenny’s previous post on using Glassboard at conferences got me thinking about a recent trend that we’re seeing, that new social networks like ours are helping to foster. The trend is described as ‘shared experiences’ and it represents the benefits you get from mutual participation, and how the dynamics of an event can change once others are involved. This isn’t a new concept, but the ways and means by which people are creating shared experiences is becoming more common as services like Glassboard make it easier to communicate and coordinate groups of people.
A great example of a shared experience can be seen through the antics of Improv Everywhere; the people who brought you “Frozen Grand Central” or “No Pants Subway Rides“. Charlie Todd organizes massive groups of people to perform really outlandish activities, and each of these ‘missions’ is truly unique and special. One of the goals for these projects is to “give people a story they can tell for the rest of their lives”, and in many cases Charlie’s done just that, both for the knowing and unknowing participants. Charlie has discovered a multiplier effect that comes about when you put large groups of people in uncommon situations. The magnitude of the experience is amplified by the number of people involved and it creates an event that is larger than the sum of the parts. If Charlie was to stand frozen in Grand Central all by himself it would not have nearly the same impact.
Another great example of the power of a shared experience can be seen in Derek Sivers analysis of “Leadership lessons from Dancing Guy”. If you haven’t seen this video, take three minutes and watch it. In a TED talk from 2010, Derek dissects the process of creating a movement through the example of a guy dancing at a music festival. Derek’s points talk about leadership and the birth of a movement, but what we also see is the transformation of an experience – from a single, odd guy dancing by himself to a massive group of people celebrating the moment. Its wonderful.
But shared experiences aren’t just limited to car alarm symphonies or flashmobs. People can come together for a variety of reasons and benefit from shared experiences, as seen by the Polymath Project and other programs designed to engage smart people from all over to solve extremely complex problems. For others, shared experiences can come from the simplest of situations: conferences, classes, or even family reunions. In these situations, you don’t always need to get everyone to sing the pythagorean theorem a capella to make it special, all you need is to engage people and lead them to a common outcome, be it collaborative note taking in a training seminar, or organizing the after-after party at a conference. Either way, you never know when creating your own shared experiences will “give you stories that you can tell for the rest of your life”.
Posted by Walker Fenton
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