Learning about collaboration from a beer commercial

 In Management

Can we learn anything from a beer commercial? Perhaps you’ve seen the recent Heineken ad (if not, there’s a link at the end of this article). Pairs of people with opposing political views are brought together without knowing their differences in advance. They agree to sit down over a beer to listen and learn.

So what’s this got to do with management? While the end is inspiring, a key part of the ad is that the couples work together first. Slowly, they learn about each other as they assemble a bar and stools from flat-pack boxes. It’s only once the task is complete that they hear about their differences.

Energy managers are frequently crossing departmental lines in their organizations. One minute they’re talking to operations about a change in air pressure, and the next they’re talking to finance about improving the CapEx process. All of these people have different perspectives and goals. Great managers listen first and then act.

But this ad shows us that it’s not enough to listen and establish rapport. Cooperating on a common task is an important first step. You won’t be assembling furniture, but look for a way to collaborate on a common goal. One manager found common ground by working with maintenance on improving the supply of parts for energy-efficient pumps.

It’s worth pointing out that many people use favors to get cooperation. Reciprocity theory suggests that you’ll get rewarded for doing this, but it does create an imbalance. What we see in the ad is that neither of these people does a favor for the other. Instead their collaboration establishes balance as a basis of trust. A useful idea to remember the next time we want to drive change in our organizations.

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