Ritual is powerful and can be used to engage people in ways that words alone cannot. Rituals are meant to affect the body through regular repetition and dramatic staging; as a consequence of that drama and repetition, they affect us at an instinctual level and influence the mind in ways much deeper than logic and reason. From sacred ceremonies including school graduations and the public swearing in of elected officials, they mark the most significant moments of our lives, individually and collectively. On a more mundane level, they help us navigate through the average day—the morning cup of coffee, a hot shower. They send a signal to our brain that something of note is happening. In all cases they help us harness energy, stabilize our minds, and have faith in the future. In doing so they channel our thrust for survival in constructive ways. By conveying a sense of purpose to important aspects of our lives, they help us find meaning, go past inertia to move through the challenges of life, and creatively reach beyond the bounds of logic. Rituals powerfully harness the law of survival, the law of reaching beyond boundaries, and the law of inertia.
Rituals can also help in the business world. BETC, the successful advertising agency in France, provides an example that can easily be adapted to many different businesses and industries. The founder and chairwoman of the agency, Mercedes Erra, insists that whenever a brief on a new client or project is brought in by an account executive, it is and should be treated as a pivotal moment in the life of the agency. The brief is the first step in the development of a new campaign. Its arrival becomes a celebratory moment. It is the trigger for a professional ritual in which importance and meaning are conveyed. Food and drinks are brought into a special room, and all of the people who will be working on the campaign gather together to talk about the future of the project. It is fun and play and serious work all at the same time. Key elements of the brief are clarified, including the strategic context of the project. There is discussion about the agency’s or individual team members’ relationship with the client, and any convictions or doubts about the client, their company, the brand, or the communications plan that they want to launch. But what happens could not be achieved through an exchange of emails or written notes because they would not have the same impact. Allowing time, staging the meeting in a different way, and having the chairwoman attend the briefing all have a special emotional impact and show the significance of the event. People can feel its significance, and feeling it is more important than understanding it intellectually when it comes to harnessing creativity and enthusiasm. Feelings make an impact on our bodies, which in turn influences our ability to solve problems and imagine new solutions. Such a meeting reaches into people’s psyches, and the meeting’s perceived significance has a long-lasting effect. Rituals are powerful, as they help us go beyond what’s tangible and conscious. They reach deep into our unconscious, engage our instinct, and convey meaning.
Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.