Forbidden to climb a ladder on stage

When I deliver my presentation around ‘the creative & entrepreneurial mindset’, I start my story with a ladder & banana. I use these real physical objects as a metaphor for a problem (the banana-peel) and the inefficient solution (ladder) on stage to make it very visual to my audience how this works in practice. At one moment I throw a banana-peel on the floor and put a ladder on top of it and climb over the ladder. You immediately feel that this is not the most efficient solution but it works and in a lot of organisations, these ladders become the new rules, way of working, habits or part of the culture. And it’s quite hard to get rid of those ladders – even when they have become the bottleneck instead of the original problem (after a month, the banana-peel rots away).

Beware of the ladder

A few years ago, I could deliver the opening keynote for @masteringSAP in Melbourne for 600+ HR & finance managers who do large SAP projects. I asked the event organiser to arrange a ladder at the hotel because it was a bit weird to bring a ladder from Belgium And the event-organisers did arrange a ladder but then ‘trouble’ started. Because Health & Safety is a big topic in Australia (a lot more than in Europe) so the hotel got scared that somebody might fall from the ladder and they didn’t want to be responsible for the risks. But the climbing of the ladder is an important part of my ‘act’ at the start of my talk because it’s a perfect visualisation of the symbolic ladders that we have in our organisations. At that moment 3 people of the event-organisation were involved in arranging the ladder from the hotel and we had to promise that I wouldn’t climb the ladder. I mentioned that I would take total responsibility for the risks but at that moment the hotel manager understood that I was going to use the ladder as part of my presentation and they even got more scared because 600+ people would see the ladder on stage. So even a few extra people from the hotel and event-organisation got involved in this ‘big’ issue and at the end, the general manager of the event-organisation had to sign a waiver that I wouldn’t climb the ladder.

So that was the first time that I couldn’t climb the ladder during my presentation but I had to make some gestures to show that I would go over the ladder I can assure you, there were a lot more dangerous around than climbing that ladder at that moment because I could have fallen from stage or choked in the small microphone.

A very big gift

I could have been sad because this happened but actually it has been the best thing that could happen. Because it’s a perfect example of how many organisations are hiding behind procedures and rules to make sure that they don’t do anything wrong. There have been 6 people involved in this ‘ladder-challenge’, it costed quite some energy, different mails & calls, and 6 people who had probably a lot of better things to do than worry about a guy who would climb a small ladder. But rules are the rules.

I recently created a short video with my 'Ladder' stories about real ladders on stage. Check out the movie here.

How many efforts are people doing in your organisation to make sure that we follow the procedures under all conditions?