by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
Last night I debated with my son whether players who “draw” fouls on themselves in soccer are skillful tacticians or cynical charlatans. You see the defender approach, flick the ball to one side and allow the momentum of the defender knock you to the ground. The referee immediately blows for a foul and you now have a free shot at goal. Is this a sophisticated advanced skill of the modern game or just plain cheating? Strictly speaking it is not “diving” – a foul punishable by a yellow card in soccer – as actual physical contact has been made but equally the attacking forward has no intention of trying to beat the defender by superior skill or speed. He “beats” him by creating all the criteria that constitute a foul and the referee is left with no option but to award the free kick. File under “moral ambivalence” or “ethics”.
Moral Ambivalence is a fact of Life
Moral ambivalence is a fact of life and punctuates our work as meetings and events professionals too, pretty much on a daily basis. As an industry, however, we tend to avoid any pan-industry discussion of “ethics” while feasting like feeding lions on our own half baked opinions within the strict separation of our silo. Thus DMCs bitch and moan in their cages about corporate and intermediary planners who take their ideas, planners complain bitterly at the water trough about DMCs whose gouge them on price. DMOs meet at DMAI and exchange black lists of so-called free loaders while independent planners call IMEX and IBTMWorld to lacerate the gate keepers who have rejected them as hosted buyers on their exhibition programmes.
The April issue of PCMA‘s excellent Convene magazine includes an important article on The Good Work Project, a Harvard-based initiative which sets out to identify individuals and institutions that exemplify good work. In an interview with Convene’s Christopher Durso, Daniel Mucinskas of the Project describes the three elements that constitute “good work”:
Those are excellence – doing your work well, with technical skill. Then after that engagement – finding a sense of enjoyment, finding a sense of purpose, that your work is meaningful to you, you feel engaged as you’re involved in it. And finally ethics – behaving in a way that demonstrates that you have a moral understanding and that you take the time to really think about the ethical consequences of your actions”.
The Good Work article is the precursor to PCMA’s own survey on ethics in the meetings industry. Conducted in late 2015 380 meetings professionals responded to 13 questions on ethics and the results are published in Convene with the results from a similar 2010 survey offered by comparison.
The results of the survey are interesting in themselves – as far as they go – but not at all surprising. The questions focus mainly on things like accepting invitations to familiarisation trips, gifts, double jobbing etc with answers in 2016 showing 50 more shades of grey than the monochromatic outcomes of 2010. And ethics, too, seems to be more on the enterprise agenda now than in the past with only 46% of organisations NOT having a written ethics policy (v 72% in 2010). Many of the comments that accompanied the responses are reproduced in the article and display a down-to-earth, sound, common sense approach.
One in particular stands out
The keys to this particular discussion are honesty, integrity and transparency.
Regrettably, however, the survey didn’t touch on any of the bigger global ethical issues in the meetings industry such as fair wages (our industry is notoriously mean when it comes to remuneration, particularly on the hospitality side), tipping (I think it’s a lose | lose situation), work hours (is it ethical to have a meeting professional on her feet for 16 hours?), IP issues (DMC provides RFP response to planner who then goes direct for all services), vendor selection (should a planner contract with a vendor who employs cheap labour?), destination selection (should a meeting planner propose a destination known for human rights abuses?), the (un)principles of corporate procurement in the meetings industry (it’s a stupid race to the bottom) and so on.
But my biggest issue with the survey was the paltry response it evoked. It’s bitterly disappointing that only 0.06% of the membership of PCMA actually took the survey – a figure that would equate to only 0.02% of the total number of members of, say, Meetings Professionals International (MPI), the world’s single biggest association for meeting professionals. So we have an industry that’s the size of a small Irish city but only a very tiny number of its inhabitants – the mad and the sad? – are prepared to invest time and effort in reflecting on the ethical meaning and consequences of what they do. This is not cool.
PCMA’s welcome highlighting of ethics in the meetings industry coincided nicely with an initiative that I developed with a few close industry friends. We debuted at FICP’s annual conference last year in Nassau and reprised again last week during Exclusively Corporate at IMEX in Frankfurt. With Mike Lyons (formerly GEP Philadelphia, AIBTM and others) and Jon Howe (Howe & Hutton Ltd) we created a business theatre project centred on the notion of taking meetings industry issues and giving them an airing in a mock court room setting. Having the meetings industry’s most experienced attorney on board (that’s definitely you, Jon!) allowed us to tease out thorny issues and separate what’s legal from what’s not. It also gave our audiences greater degrees of clarity around the differences between unethical behaviour, discourteous behaviour and behaviour that’s simply not nice.
Give me a call!
On both occasions our core cast was augmented by volunteer association members who played key roles on the prosecution or defence side, adding weight and humour to the scenario. There is no script other than an outline scenario but since we’re all long standing practitioners in the meetings industry we know our lines automatically so improvisation is easy!
If you’re interested in discussing how this innovation format might work at your next live event please make contact with us below.
Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique agency offering strategy, marketing and training to hotels, venues and destinations within the MICE sector. He and his business partner Patrick Delaney are also part-time thespians playing the roles of Dewey Chetem (Attorney at Law) and Peter Planner (Humble Meeting Planner who always follows corporate policy) respectively