Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TEDx Fort McMurray: Shift in Thought - The Sign: A Bothersome Thing, and Alanna Bottrell

As Act Two of TEDx Fort McMurray approached the final moments, and lunch and growly tummies loomed large, one last presenter for the morning took the stage - and when I say "took it", I mean "grabbed it in her ferocious teeth and shook it around much like a pitbull with a poodle". The diminutive-in-stature-but-not-in-intellect Alanna Bottrell closed out Act Two of YMM with her presentation on the dreaded "sign".

Now, in my experience the sign Alanna talks about is unique to the Fort McMurray experience. I do not recall ever seeing this sign anywhere else, a sign that fundamentally says "we can treat you, the customer, however we want, but don't give us any lip or you are outta here" (okay, it doesn't really say that, but that sentiment seems to be the essence). Alanna is a gifted writer, and she presents her thoughts on the sign - and on ways we can really improve the YMM experience - with both eloquence and humour.

I had known Alanna in a superficial sense prior to the TEDx experience, but I was delighted to have the opportunity to get to know her better and discover that she is as delightfully quirky, irreverent, funny, and brilliant as you would guess her to be from her written words. She might have been nervous about her performance before she presented but I was thrilled to watch as she threw down the gauntlet and challenged "the sign" and all those who display it to change the dialogue by removing the sign and creating ways to welcome instead.

It is always an incredible moment to see someone shine, and Alanna shone brightly at TEDx Fort McMurray when she reminded us of the importance of welcoming people into our stores, our facilities, and our communities. I know it got me thinking both personally and professionally about how we approach the public - do we welcome them in, or do we try to push them out the door with signs that we think are protecting us in some sense but that are likely just setting the tone for an experience because we have come to expect it to play out that way? What would happen if instead of a sign we painted a red welcome mat to every door? What if we got rid of a sign that immediately sets up a confrontational tone and instead opened the door to dialogue and relationships from a place of acceptance and mutual respect? Perhaps we could set a different tone, and create new, positive experiences for everyone. Perhaps we would see the sign quietly be taken down and this one bothersome thing be relegated to a dusty storage room, or, better yet, a garbage bin.

As I ponder this bold future I present to you the charming, unorthodox, and uproarious Alanna Bottrell - and her thoughts on a very bothersome thing.

1 comment:

  1. I love her! She's comedian, actor, philosopher! I'm an old fart ,in an old city (est. 1816) of red-necks (Randy Hillier's riding). This is inspiring!