The seven day countdown is on at my house. One of our favorite shows, Big Brother, debuts a new season on July 12. Judge me if you must. I know that there are some of you out there who look down your nose at reality television as some sort of substandard type of entertainment. But I love it.
Here are five reasons why I think you might want to reconsider your position on Reality TV (and specifically Big Brother), particularly if you are a student of leadership or a practitioner of Human Resources.
- Big Brother is a really interesting look into the dynamics that exist between strangers as they are brought together and given no other option than to be in close proximity to one another for a long period of time. You see how some personalities blend and others clash. Interpersonal skills are on display. It is a fascinating thing to watch happen. And, while the circumstances of Big Brother are unusual (these strangers are living together in lock down for up to a month and a half), I think there are some parallels to how employees are challenged to socialize when they join a company or new team.
- Big Brother is a social game and it involves forming relationships, coalitions, and partnerships to survive. People hatch strategies throughout the game for how to capture power and influence within “the house” where the game is played. There are always some great lessons that emerge from how people use and abuse power and the associated consequences. The game also reveals some really interesting perspectives into how disloyalty, backstabbing and lying can get you ahead in the short run but consistently burn you down in the long run.
- Big Brother (and the Biggest Loser, Survivor, etc.) are games that involve both social dynamics (you get voted off by your competitors) and performance. There are physical and mental competitions regularly. Those who perform well on the contests throughout can lift themselves above the drama of the voting within the game. Performance trumps drama, but the drama is always there.
- Throughout the Big Brother game, rules are randomly changed and enforced with little or no warning to the competitors (sound familiar?). Sometimes, these changes can be pretty dramatic. I love watching how the competitors react to these changes. I think that if you pay attention, you can learn a lot about why change management and communication is so important within our organizations. On Big Brother, their motto for contestants is “Expect the Unexpected” so, while they often don’t like a change, they usually don’t resist it because the unexpected is expected. There’s a lesson there as well.
- It is just fun TV to watch.
I’m not suggesting you should watch every reality show on the market (there are some really bad ones). And, I’m also not suggesting you should sit with your legal pad as you watch these shows to take notes and analyze the show (that would take the fun out of it). What I am suggesting is that reality shows reveal some interesting insights into human nature and how people react to certain situations and pressures. Many of our workplaces are reality shows playing out every day without the cameras rolling. And, too often, we are happily playing the role of Big Brother.