The New York Times reported the “zoo’s director decided to stuff its body and put it on display in a museum.” Well, Knut’s fans — ranging from a fan club in Japan, to those remembering a cover shoot with Leonardo DiCaprio for “Vanity Fair” — are insisting the most famous polar bear in the world should not be subjected to “dermoplastik” (the technical term for “stuffing.”)
As the article states, “The nemesis of the anti-stuffing crowd is the zoo’s director, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, a man whose zoo marketed this bear from birth, made millions off its presence, sold plush toy Knuts for nearly $30 and Knut baby videos for the same, and even registered ‘Knut’ as a trademark. Now, Mr. Blaszkiewitz says he is shocked at how much people feel for this animal, who died, quite suddenly, at the age of 4 ½ last month. ‘The problem is, people take their human feelings and put them into animals,’ he said, expressing astonishment at all the ‘silly presents’ that mourners have deposited at the zoo, meaning the candles and flowers and posters.”
So…look at what the Berlin Zoo has on its hands. A director with a corporate desire to maximize the profitability of an attraction by extending the product’s ability to create sales. A huge group of protestors wanting to preserve the memory, in a more dignified manner, of an animal who had brought them much enjoyment — and the Zoo a LOT of money.
On the other hand, Mr. Blaszkiewitz, the zoo director, recently said he just wanted to fuss to end — and assured that it would — as he has already sent the bear out to have its skin removed and the procedure started. “This is just a polar bear, a special polar bear, but a polar bear all the same,” he said.
As the article notes, it is easy fodder for humorists to make fun of the people who are protesting the Zoo’s decision. Haters posting on the web, newspaper headlines ridiculing their position, and more confront those who simply do not want the wonderful animal who brought them so much pleasure to be gutted and stuffed.
So, they protest by the hundreds, they attack those who feel differently, and have disrupted some of the Berlin Zoo’s operations.
Wait, you may ask — with all of the trouble in the world; from the devastation in Japan to uprisings in the Middle East, from famine and violence to unemployment and deficits — these people are spending their time worrying about a deceased polar bear? AND…what in the world does this have to do with business?
Here’s the answer…and it is found in a great line within the article that is very easy to overlook: “Applying the formula of comparative importance to any conflict is meaningless to those touched by the conflict.”
In other words, if you connect emotionally in some manner, then the rules change. (At least for YOU.)
When we receive bad service, we often say, “I will NEVER do business here AGAIN!” — instead of, “That was an inferior service experience.” We don’t always apply the formula of comparative importance when WE are the ones who have been personally touched by the situation.
Conversely, when we’ve connected emotionally, we may evaluate an organization more positively than they may deserve.
Unfortunately, it seems that most education and training in organizations today is soulless. It’s about product features and performance…it’s about “managing what you can measure”…it’s about our CFO’s (critical few objectives)…it’s about covering the corporate posterior at all costs. And, NONE of this is about emotion.
Then, managers at all levels scratch their heads and wonder why they can’t inspire their customers to be as wild about their companies as Apple, Southwest, and a very few others do.