Do they Know It’s Christmas?

In 1984 Band Aid released the song “Do they Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia. The song went on to become a huge hit that year and was instrumental in raising awareness of what was going on in Ethiopia. On 12/12/12, a fundraising concert to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy was held at Madison Square Garden. Many artists took the stage to sing their hits and help raise awareness of what was going on in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In both instances, people came together to perform in hopes of getting a message out to the world: People need your help. But why did these events prove to be effective? The world was certainly aware of what was going on prior to these events. Certainly in 2012, with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you couldn’t escape the images and stories of the destruction and suffering caused by the Hurricane. Why did a concert make people pause and donate to these causes?

Maybe it’s all about Slowing down to think

One could say that we live in a fast paced world and that the concert slowed things down for a little while to open our minds to the issues, but I disagree. I think that the reason these events are so successful is because they cause us to feel the pain. In each event, you can’t help but sense a deep feeling of helplessness for the people affected. You probably had this feeling before the song or concert, when first learning of, or seeing the starving people in Ethiopia or the destruction in New Jersey, but that feeling was fleeting. You felt sorry for the people you saw on TV or read about through your Social Media connections, but it wasn’t directed to a cause.

On 12/12/12, as well as in 1984, the musical event brought you back to the pain and made you really feel the suffering. As humans we are programmed to react in one of two ways: Fight or Flight, and in these cases we used our Fight response and opened up our wallets and donated to the cause. These concerts appealed to our Emotional side which then told our Rational side it better take action.

Can a feeling be applied to building software?

If helping people feel these painful events evokes a response so easily, can it be applied to a team at work building software? Silly as it sounds, could you truly change a team’s behavior and empower them to deliver amazing results by getting them to feel pain as well? This may seem easy to prove, but then again, maybe not.

Faced with tight budgets and high expectations to increase revenue, today’s companies must become more efficient in how they build software but also, they must be better at delivering what the customer wants. Competition shows us that if you are too slow to release a product or new feature you quickly become yesterday’s news. Everyone knows this as more and more people interact with software. People know what a good user experience feels like. Recent polls show that more than 70% of smartphone users use an app on their device and yet most of these app’s have little to no user documentation. App creators are building software that is easy to use, meets a unique need and requires very little learning to make the applications useful. Where is this drive when it comes to software used inside an organization?

It’s time to change – here’s the Challenge

In spite of what most people know about budgets, revenue expectations and a users experience, we are still relying on old techniques to build software. Requirements that take 3 months to be elaborated before a design can be started will not support the Marketing and Sales departments that are looking to delivery quickly to a changing marketplace. Spending an exorbitant amount of time creating documentation for the sake of creating documentation will not support the technical team that wants to build a solution to deliver value to the business. And testing the solution after it has been completed will not deliver a high quality, low cost solution resulting in minimal rework. Yet we do this every day and don’t seem to have any problem with continuing this process.

So, I have a challenge. I challenge you to get your team to feel what being Agile is like and let me know. One sentence on your experience? Your teams, Company’s, Management? What did working in an Agile manner really feel like and did that feeling make you want to continue in this fashion. I challenge you! What exactly are you worried might happen?

1/24/13 Update

I wanted to provide additional information related to my story above and how feeling something really is part of who we are as humans. I recently watched a video created by Dr. Paul Zak where he discusses a case study in how the human brain responds to effective storytelling. I could help but find the connection with Dr. Zak’s case study any my recent blog post. See for yourself here: and thanks Dr. Zak (@pauljzak)