Read This Before You Plan That Next Offsite, Retreat, or Staff Meeting

This is a story about the power of moments. It was 1984, and a young rock musician named Bruce Springsteen was working to finish his seventh studio album. He had already written over 70 songs for the record, but his manager, Jon Landau, told him that he still needed a hit. Bruce didn't agree. They got into a argument, each stormed home, and then Bruce picked up his guitar.

To spite Jon, he wrote a song called "Dancing in the Dark." It was about how you can't force a creative breakthrough. A sentiment that comes through loud and clear in the chorus as Springsteen yells, "You can't start a fire without a spark." The song would be the biggest hit of his life, earning him his first Grammy and helping him sell over 30 million copies of the new album. Glory days.

But why are we talking about a Bruce Springsteen story from over 30 years ago? Because this is our 1984, and we need a hit.

Business is as hard today as it's ever been. The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has declined from 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 today. And whether you're in retail, insurance, logistics, or something else entirely, many of us face similar challenges: increasing complexity, stagnant employee engagement, external disruption, rising expenses, and technology change. We know these ills all too well, and like Springsteen, we need a creative breakthrough.

But creative breakthroughs don't happen just because you want them to. You can't just sit in your office, working at the same desk, meeting in the same rooms, walking the same hallways with the same people to expect different results. It's why Springsteen wrote the first 70 songs in the studio, and not one was the hit.

What made the 71st song different? It was a combination of the intense emotion sparked by Jon's disappointment and the new sights and sounds of his living room. It was the power of moments that helped the world dance in the dark.

In their newest book, Chip and Dan Heath argue that the experiences you create can be much more transformative than the words you say. And if you are intentional in creating powerful experiences, you can have an impact far greater than any marketing campaign or internal communications strategy ever could. 

It's how John Deere boosted employee engagement and retention with an immersive onboarding experience, how Stanton Elementary School tripled attendance with teacher home visits every summer, and how a mediocre Los Angeles hotel received higher ratings than the Four Seasons with a pool-side "Popsicle Hotline." You can create experiences that permanently shift the mindsets and behaviors of your customers and employees.

So before you embark on your next staff meeting, retreat, or board meeting, think about what you really want to accomplish in the room. Once you know that, get creative to tell that story with the experience you create, not just the words you say. You can light that spark. You can dance in the dark.

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