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What organisations can learn from Eurovision

by Matthew Hart

Think Eurovision, Europe’s annual song contest, and you’re probably thinking sequins, white suits and some questionable songs.

But interestingly, the Eurovision Song Contest represents one of the world’s most popular and longest-running internal engagement activities. Conceived in the 1950s by the European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision was designed as a way to unite the war-torn countries of Europe – all through light entertainment.

Some 57 years later, the contest is one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, attracting up to 600 million viewers, including many from outside Europe.

Commentators argue that over time Eurovision has helped change countries’ attitudes and moods towards each other, fostering respect and sympathy for the cultural, societal and technological achievements of their neighbours.  In turn, this cultural proximity has helped spur bilateral trade ties.

So if Eurovision has helped European nations build stronger connections after war, what lessons does it offer for organisations that are looking to heighten internal operational efficiencies and unity?

Here are the top five lessons from Eurovision about internal engagement:

  1. Dare to create and tailor Engagement activities need to be tailored to the specific internal landscape of an organisation.   Understand that you might not have to launch an inter-department song contest to generate internal harmony, and that small initiatives, such as awards, recognition, and social gatherings may be more effective.
  2. Harness friendly competition and shared values Igniting competitive juices can be a great way to get staff buy-in, especially when it is something they share a passion for.
  3. Set the scope, equity and rules from the start If one group feels as though they’re disadvantaged, not being “heard” or that others are being favoured over them, it will be hard to get them engaged.   Clearly define the scope and rules of engagement at the very start.
  4. Understand your time and resources Eurovision has been running for more than half a century.  It’s unlikely that your engagement activity will run that long, but it does highlight the need to have realistic expectations about what can be achieved with the amount of time and resources you have.
  5. Maximise face time Bringing people together so they can meet and talk with others is a great way to build mutual respect and unity.  If geography makes it difficult or impossible to physically bring people together, identify ways for individuals to form connections with others, even if it is just over email or the phone.