The Eurovision Song Contest will be presented on May 10th, 12th and 14th of 2016. For those of us outside Europe, you can stream the contest in real time or watch it again after its conclusion via the Eurovision website and their WebTV page.
One defining characteristic of the Eurovision Song Contest is the diversity of the competition. I’m not just referring to the performers themselves, who range over the entire spectrum of race and ethnicity and sexual identity and religion; I’m also referring to the acts themselves. Take the 2013 Contest held in Malmo, Sweden as an example. While many of the acts which made it to the Grand Final could broadly be classified as being somewhere in the pop/dance genre, you did have several diverse entries.
For example, Belarus was represented by singer Alyona Lanskaya, who took a queue from the previous years winner (Swedish singer Loreen) and went with a dance/Euro pop inspired tune with a definite Eastern European and Spanish influence with her song Solayoh.
Greece was represented by Koza Mostra and Agathon Iakovidis, who offered one of the more peculiar entries by mixing traditional Greek Folk elements with a punk and ska influence in their song Alcohol is Free.
Lest you think the entire contest is populated with upbeat, techno-infused house music, Iceland’s Eythor Ingi took it in an entirely different direction with his comparatively simple piano, orchestral and vocal ballad Eg A Lif (I Have a Life).
And no list from the 2013 contest would be complete without mentioning Romania’s entry featuring opera singer Florin Cezar Ouatu, who blended techno dance with dubstep and opera to create It’s My Life, the only song in ESC history to be sung almost entirely in falsetto.
What does any of this have to do with the workplace or with you career? Plenty. If you had to try and come up with one word to describe the entries from Belarus, Greece, Iceland and Romania, could you? What about a word that could describe the entire ESC? This is the culture of the Eurovision Song Contest, and as such it’s hard to encompass. The thing about Eurovision is that it can be polarizing; either you love it for all of its diversity and spectacle, or you hate it. The same can be said of workplace culture.
In an organization with a culture that tends more towards the high energy, creative and at times chaotic, as the ESC does, it is important that there is at least one unifying factor; one thing that keeps all of the Icelandic, Greeks, Belerusian and Romanians working together for something, in spite of their very obvious differences. The ESC was initially created in the 1950’s with the idea of bringing the war torn countries of Europe together around a common event. The slogan for the contest changes every year, but the last decade has featured slogans such as Share the Moment (2010), We Are One (2013), Building Bridges (2015) and this year’s slogan of Come Together.
Without a unifying factor, that one thing that glues all of the diversity together, a workplace quickly descends into chaos. But it needs to be more than just a mission statement; that unifying factor needs to permeate the institution and the people working there. The ESC works, and has been successful for more than 60 years not because of the annually changing slogans, but because of the idea behind them. The idea of bringing diverse countries and acts together to put on a show for the rest of the world, no matter what slogan is selling it. That is the glue that allows ballads, ska/punk and even dubstep opera to coexist on the same stage.
How about the culture at your workplace? Can you easily boil it down into one word, and if you could, what would that word be? Does that unifying concept permeate your workplace and its diverse employees, or has it broken down into a mission statement that none of your employees feel passionate about; or worse, is it quoted only to deride how vast the gulf is between what the organization presents publicly and what its really like on the inside? Today’s employees are as diverse as the entries in the ESC, but to function effectively as a team and succeed in business, there has to be room for that diversity to flourish. This cannot exist without a unifying culture idea that can bring all of the diversity together.
So who won the 2013 ESC? The winning entry was Denmark’s Emmelie De Forest, with her entry titled Only Teardrops.