What kind of a festival are you at?

This is about creating value in complex situations.

I went to Glastonbury over the weekend with a bunch of pals. Our aim, like most festival-goers, was to have the maximum fun possible (in our case within the constraints of the law). The fun is mostly centred around musical performances; there are thousands to choose from at hundreds of stages. On the face of it, the process is to read the programme, choose who to see then go to the sets. But it's more complex for lots of reasons:

  • We may need to decide about programme conflicts for example (in my case): Radiohead and Status Quo or the Foo Fighters and Cockney Rebel.
  • We may not have time to travel to the next stage...
  • …and, even if it's not too far, there may be massive crowds or (in some years) uncrossable rivers of mud blocking the way.
  • We may lose, and spend ages looking for, our mates.
  • We may get caught up in a conversation - like a fascinating one we had with a divorced-remarried couple - introducing a two-pint delay.
  • We may be persuaded by our friends that Janice Jangle is way better than Kevin Kakophoni and we submit to Janice on the grounds of conviviality.
  • We may find that the N'cha N'cha Band's widely acclaimed brand of new-age dubstep reggae doesn't quite do what we thought it might.
  • We may be diverted by a bloke in the Circus Field wrapping himself in cling film to the theme tune of The Dambusters hence turning another half hour into smoke and thereby missing the Mississippi Wassernames.
  • We may decide that despite our lifelong love of Dave Growl and the Ear Drillers, come the moment, we'd prefer something more tranquil.
  • We may run out of curry and need a pit stop at Gandhi's Flip Flop.
  • We may need a nap.
  • Or we may just be too pissed to carry on.

You get the picture. For all but the super-fit single-minded teetotal isolationists with their own sandwiches, it's impossible to follow a schedule. Our definition of what's valuable changes - unexpected things happen, interactions change our view, opportunities open up. So, it's important to be flexible; to have a view of what we'd like but not hold onto it too tightly; to sense what is going on both around us and within ourselves, and respond.

So it is in organisations. Things are becoming more complex, and creating value harder. It’s crucial not to be thinking Glyndebourne when we are actually at Glastonbury.