I dreamed a dream

Her name is Susan Boyle, currently unemployed, 47 years old lady from West Lothian. Few days ago she walked on stage at the Britain’s got talent show and made history. She looked a bit out of place and definitely didn’t look like anything promising. After all, many talents are trying their luck on this show and Susan just didn’t look anything special to say the least.

She mentioned she never had a chance in her life to prove herself and chose to sing “I dreamed a dream” from “Les Mirserables” as if there was nothing easier.

It was interesting to view the judges’ and crowd first response to her. It seems as if none took her seriously and when she mentioned her dream to sing like Elaine Page it seems as if this cannot gone worse.

And then she sang.

Take a look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxPZh4AnWyk (or if it was removed, just look for Susan Boyle on Youtube.com )


In less than two and half minutes of singing she amazed the crowd and changed her life forever. More than thirty five million people worldwide looked at her performance on various sites and even started a new comment style by leaving a text: Susan Boyle brought me here from…” you can find these comments everywhere on youtube.com and on all related songs and singers.

Three years earlier it was Paul Potts who first surprised us on Britain’s got talent. A mobile phone salesman from Wales whose dream was to sing opera. Back then, he caught us by a complete surprise. Dazzled by first impression, we assumed this was a very short audition. We saw the tense in the crowd expecting the judges to send him home, we saw the camera focusing on him and expected the inevitable. People in the crowd were feeling sorry for the embarrassment he was about to face. Few seconds later he started to sing.

Take a look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k08yxu57NA

The Aria Nessun Dorma starts slowly and quietly and then climes up like a wave. The first one to understand this is not going as expected was Simon Cowell, the main judge. He lifted his look up at once, still chewing on his pencil and all his expression was as if he wanted to say: “what the he…” it took the shocked crowd few more seconds and when Paul left them far below while climbing to amazing sounds, they literally jumped from their chairs. Amanda Holden and people in the crowd were actually tearing.

None saw it coming.

What about us?

What about us executives believing we saw most of what there is to see and making judgments in minutes, sometimes seconds.

Taking in calculation the amount of decisions we managers make a day, it is only reasonable to assume we get better and faster in analyzing and judging events and people, however there is a downside for it and it has to do with the way our brain is built. Our brain remembers and uses patterns and past experiences that were coined and absorbed by it. Since the amount of data surrounding us is overwhelming and so is the amount of input generated by our senses, the brain actually makes shortcuts and stores information in a way it can use again once meeting resembling pattern. It is very useful way in allocating brain power to various fluctuating tasks almost simultaneously. This phenomenon enables us to do one thing while concentrating on another. We hardly pay attention to our routine daily tasks since our brain uses its autopilot mode to handle them while freeing capacity to deal with other urgent tasks. As a result, we tend to perform daily tasks at the same way; we take the same route daily and gain many habits as we call them.

This goes further while we tend to use stereotypes in order to help us classify and hence relate to events with common denominators. This is the reason why different people looking at the same event will see different things and respond differently while measuring equipments will measure the very same outcome.

Ok, enough about neurobiology. How does that relate to our issue? Well, the system depicted above usually works fine, but when it is overlooking or skipping something, we do not notice it. We tend to run into conclusions and judge wrongly or too early and we do not have any warning system that will prompt us we are offline.

Examples? Sure, but let’s limit the discussion to people only, that is what we should care about here. Ask yourself, how many times in job interview situations we fall so easily for:

Gender? Color? Accent? Age? Language proficiency? And many other irrelevant details. We see resumes for 30 seconds and already have an opinion about the candidate. We look at a candidate and listen to his/ hers speech for few minutes and come up with a verdict.

And I didn’t even start talking about speed dating…

I would like to take this post one step forward and ask: do we actually give people chance? Both in private and corporate life, I am really not convinced we are doing our best. When was the last time we placed aside our stereotypes and actually let someone prove his capabilities? Or simply gave someone a second chance?

I have a small request for you, whomever you might be, but if you are influencing people’s life and you are about to dismiss someone simply because they do not fit the image you had previously, give them a chance, a little one. It might be all they need. The young guy sitting in front of you may not be fluent, but he might be the best programmer, accountant, designer or employee you have ever recruited. The single mother who was forced to find a job, may not be as shiny and experienced as the other secretaries you interviewed and it may take her a little longer to reach full capacity on the job, but she might be your most loyal and motivated employee.

A little chance is all they need.

In a perfect world, neither Paul Potts nor Susan Boyle would have reached 40 before anyone gave them a chance.

Maybe Amanda Holden was right referring to Susan Boyle: “That’s the biggest wakeup call ever. “

The following lines extracted from her song, are dedicated to Susan Boyle who thought us all an important lesson.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Luckily Susan, your life has changed for the good and we are all wishing you the best in your new life. You have earned it rightfully.

David Dekel, CEO

Endeavour Enterprises N.V. Amsterdam

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