Also burying “the burning platform”

Burning platform photo by Jose Mesa via Flickr

So while I am burying things, I am officially also burying the  phrase “burning platform.”

I cannot take direct create for this blinding-glimpse-of-the-obvious insight, but exactly what positive impact does this verbal imagery have on helping someone (or some organization) want to change? And if I am walking around in an organization that is consistently urging change because of yet another burning platform, wouldn’t I want to get to someplace a little safer? Smoke, fire and 20-story plunges into the sea are not part of my image of a healthy environment.

This notion actually came up during a conversation late last week with two organizations that are working with the Master’s Program in Learning  & Organizational Change at Northwestern University on re-thinking change management practices within organizations. One of the executives pointed out that our normal approach to inspiring change is to start with images inspiring fear. And how, she asked, does that put people in a good place to actually do something productive?

So: Burning platform. No longer part of my vocabulary. Burning platform.

3 thoughts on “Also burying “the burning platform”

  1. Ever since I began to be influenced by an Appreciative Inquiry approach I have felt this framing was potentially counter to any solid or sustainable effort to change. Not only is it fear based but it focuses people in being against instead of for. I prefer to substitute Vision instead. Thanks for bringing this out.


  2. Thanks, Dorie. Spot on as always.

    What sent me off on that little rant was just realizing how pervasive that “burning platform” language is. After the meeting last week, where one of our partner exec’s made the comment I noted in the post, I was reading a book on persuasive presentations. Actually – a great book. But at one point when the author was talking about making emotional connections with the audience, and understanding drama and emotion, she let loose with that “burning platform” line as one strategy.

    Egad. Just wishing there were a big “find and replace” editing feature where we could just eliminate that phrase wherever it appears.

    Language is important, no?


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