I wanted to title this post, The Upside of Being Subconsciously Manipulated At Work, but it seemed all too clunky and so I decided to steal the title from the 2004 movie, which also just seems more cool.
I recall years ago hearing about the advertising tactics of movie theaters in the 1960s, whereupon they would slice into the film very short sequences of frames, perhaps just one or two frames which the conscious eye cannot pick up as having seen, yet which does not escape the attention of the subconscious mind. Anyway, I think you know where I'm going here, the images would be of a fizzing Coke or a big tub of buttered popcorn, and sure enough, it was found that within just a few seconds of those images whizzing by, people would start to get up out of their seats and head to the concession stand where they'd purchase said products.
All sounds very evil, although no real harm done I suppose except that it seems to be a form of trickery and also what was being marketed to the subconscious minds of countless movie goers of that era was perhaps partially responsible for the current epidemic in our society of carb and sugar addition, obesity, and the attendant health problems produced such as diabetes and heart disease.
But this post isn't a rant about our collective health, or even product marketing, but rather how we can influence - purposefully - others on a daily basis, most notably of course at work. I was reminded of this when I read today in the NY Times about people who are hired to select classical music from Beethoven, Mozart, et al, for the backgound music at Penn Station. Anyone who's ever passed through that place knows that stress levels, which can be already pretty high just walking around NYC, seem to magnify when dropping oneself into the confusing and outrageously crowded environs of Penn, a place which makes Grand Central Station look like a peaceful walk through Central Park.
Enter now the subconscious world of soothing music and the people who are adept at choosing which tunes work best with calming down the masses. And kudos to them for going that route, instead of playing Pepsi jingles just loud enough for the thousands in there at any given moment to rush the nearest counter and order a 32 oz. cup of liquid sugar.
It took me back to perhaps the most inspiring and beautiful thing I ever knew a Housekeeper to do... she would often enter one of the homes of her employer, picking one which had heavy construction or remodeling efforts in full force, one with construction materials, dust, grime, and the sweat and salt of construction workers dripping everywhere, and she would simply go into the most congested, busy, and dirty room at the moment and place a singular small vase of beautiful fresh cut flowers in the center of it all. Yup, right in the middle of the floor.
The effect, as she described in better detail than I am able to here on a simple blog posting, was nothing short of pure magic. The tension in the room, the commotion, the stress.... all stopped, immediately. The quality of work went up, immediately. Other workers from other rooms would come in, almost too often throughout the day, with the excuse they needed to borrow a tool. Everybody just wanted to be there... and it was people that we don't typically associate with little, pretty flower bouquets.
What is the lesson learned? That big, burly masculine construction guys like flowers, too? Well, yeah, they do, but I think that's only the beginning. I think we're all connected very deeply as human beings, and with whatever we look like on the outside we each still have a need for someone to step in and show us they care about us... even for someone to take the time to program it into our subconsciousness.
How could you do that on your estate? The robots are everyone, and everyone is waiting for you to show them that you care, whether you're the Housekeeper, the Chef, the Butler, the Driver, the Nanny, or the Grand Poobah Estate Manager herself. Whether you do that in plain view while speaking at a staff meeting, or do it more creatively and with just a little bit of sneakiness, really won't matter.
But making the effort to successfully do it, will.