Bluto Animal House food fight scene

‘Nothing is over until we decide it is!’

2020 has been epically terrible for employees, communicators and pretty much everyone else. It’s time to think like Bluto.

If that quote sounds familiar, it’s because you clearly have great taste in movies. If you haven’t seen Animal House yet, go watch it — I’ll wait. Bluto Blutarsky (John Belushi) delivers that iconic line after hearing his fraternity is getting kicked off of Faber College’s campus and his frat bros want to throw in the towel. When it looks like all is lost and the entire world is against them, Bluto rallies his brothers by adopting a new attitude—we decide our own fate.

It’s an opportunity’

I know, that’s something a motivational speaker would say to you. But what if it was true? Anytime there is disruption, whether it be a pandemic, great recession or the Dean of your college being morally opposed to everything you stand for, there is always opportunity— for those willing to get back up after being knocked down.

I started my second company, an internet-based data analytics company, in February of 2000 (yes, I’m old). Exactly two weeks before the great Internet implosion of March 2000. While everyone else adopted a scarcity mindset, we were able to innovate without much competition. It wasn’t until 2003 that people realized the Internet was not just a fad but here to stay. By that time, we had emerged as the leader in our space. Two years later we were acquired by Fox Corporation.

Fast forward to 2008 – not the Internet this time but capital markets. Again, oftentimes with disruption comes a scarcity mindset. For those that see opportunities when others have negative outlooks are rewarded. Here are just a few companies that were born in the wake of the Great Recession:

  • AirBNB
  • Warby Parker
  • Uber
  • Whatsapp
  • Venmo
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

What does this mean for you and employee communication? It means you have an opportunity to experiment with new ways, tools, technologies—all under the guise of maximizing communication efficacy in this “new normal.” Take control of your fate, just like Delta House (you did watch the movie, right?). Which leads to…

‘That’s the way we’ve always done it

Do you know who said that? Blockbuster. Blockbuster said that. Rewind to 2000. Netflix approached Blockbuster with an offer: “Buy us for $50 million and we’ll handle building out mail-order and online.” Blockbuster could not see past “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Why should they? They were the 800-pound gorilla and that recipe had worked for them. However, past success is no guarantee of future success. 

Today Netflix is worth $207 billion. For you math nerds, that’s a 414,000% increase. P.S. There is still one Blockbuster store remaining in Bend, Oregon.

Whether it’s implementing A.I., omni-channel communication or even just the baby step of not sending employee communication through Outlook, you will always get push-back—just expect it. 

COVID is the single best response for why we need to explore new ways of communicating to our employees.

The next time you hear “but that’s the way we’ve always done it”, ask that person if they’re still driving to the Bend Blockbuster store.

Recipe for innovation

Am I making the argument that you should go buy 10,000 marbles and explosives? No! Blowing everything up is almost never a great idea unless, well, you’re Delta House and Dean Wormer has left you with no choice. 

When I present to internal communicators on the topic of new ways to think about solving the very complex problems facing them, I always suggest the following steps:

  1. Start with Empathy: What would you want as an employee? What brands are really engaging you (outside of Blockbuster)? How can you create that experience within your organization?
  2. Research: What’s out there? Is the solution you’re looking at going to both meet your current communication needs AND grow with you?
  3. Business Case: I frequently talk about the value of ROI, especially for internal communicators. What’s the potential value to the business? ROI is the magic language that will get your idea approved.
  4. Pilot: If you don’t have complete buy-in, pilot. Make sure you have defined the timeframe and what you will be measuring.
  5. Let Success Speak: A business case combined with data from a pilot is the business equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate. It doesn’t get any better than that.

If you’re ready to see omnichannel employee communication, A.I. for internal comms, a better way to send employee email, or just want to talk about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor, let’s chat. 

Nerd, entrepreneur, A.I. evangelist, and speaker. Passionate about human-centric communication.