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Chilean Miners: What We Learned

by Susan Radojevic November 3, 2010

The world watched in panic as the 33 Chilean Miners stood trapped 625 metres below the earth’s surface. A feeling of hope was never lost, however the miners’ chances for survival lay solely in the hands of the strategists behind the rescue plan. The Chilean Government was quick to respond and devise a plan that was both strategic and revolutionary. Government officials understood the extent of their core competencies and did not hesitate to approach other organizations (such as NASA) to acquire additional competencies vital to the creation of a successful plan. The resulting recipe for success consisted of equal parts: collaboration, innovation, dedication and transparency. As a result of this revolutionary approach, the heroic rescue capsule now famously known as "The Fenix" was created and the legacy was born.

Although not a matter of life and death, meetings and events also have the potential to achieve great levels of success as long as the strategy behind the initiative involves vital ingredients. The strategy must be aligned with the organization’s overall goals, it must be effectively designed to achieve these goals, it must be executed flawlessly and the strategy must have measurement capabilities in place to quantify success. It is important for leaders to view these strategic initiatives as an investment in the overall success of the organization, as opposed to a traditional cost centre. In addition, costs incurred must be balanced against their benefit counterparts, in order for leaders to establish a corporate culture which fosters collaboration and innovation.

Despite all of the evidence in support of the benefits of investing in meetings and events, in reality, many leaders have yet to undertake the necessary steps to properly manage their meeting and event portfolio. As a result, the world continues to misunderstand the business value of meetings and events, as demonstrated by the "AIG Effect." In addition, many leaders continue to use broadcast communication tactics, which are essentially one-way communication methods which involve simply talking at participants from a stage. The time has come for leaders to realize that the corporate playing field has evolved to a point where they no longer have a choice in how they choose to effectively communicate with their audience. Today’s business world and the ubiquitous advent of social media now means that organizations must incorporate collaboration into their communications in order to remain competitive; two-way communication is the new industry standard.

As shared above, one of the strongest indicators of a successful strategy can be found in one common ingredient: collaboration. Collaboration is imperative to the success of both organizational and rescue teams, as it enables the formation of cross-functional teams in order to overcome strategic barriers. If the Chilean Government had assembled their team from strictly domestic and internal resources and hence did not reach out, The Fenix might not have been created and the Chilean Miners’ story might have resulted in an entirely different outcome.

This event has taught us it is important to learn from these experiences and adopt a collaborative approach into our everyday business practices. In today’s business world, notable business leaders such as David Snowden (Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge) stand firmly behind collaboration and its positive organizational effects. Snowden strongly advises both current and future organizational leaders to “surround yourself with people who complement your deficiencies.” In other words, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.