Increase Engagement By Changing The Environment

I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of a 50-foot, 250-pound giant red ball.

My daily morning routine to get coffee at the local cafe in Chicago before heading to work was drastically interrupted when I crossed paths with a giant red ball squeezed between two buildings. By giant, I mean 50 feet tall and 250 pounds! 

I was both shocked and curious at our new neighborhood installation. It drew my attention and the attention of each person that passed by. Soon, a large crowd gathered on the street to see this work of art, all wondering what it was and why it was placed there.

After doing some research, I discovered it was an art display hosted by artist Kurt Perschke called The RedBall Project. Kurt created a giant red ball and goes into communities where he asks permission to set up this 250-pound red ball in random places like the entrance to a shopping mall, on top of a bridge, at a bus stop, or beside a café.

Since then, The RedBall Project has evolved into a traveling public art exhibit that has visited cities like Sydney, Arizona, Chicago, Toronto, Abu Dhabi, Taipei, Perth, England, Barcelona, St. Louis, Korea, and Portland. It also won a national award from the Arts Public Art Network.

The intriguing aspect of the RedBall project is that it is installed in unexpected places and interferes with daily life in unexpected ways. So even if the artist is not present, which he isn’t most of the time,  anyone who comes across this massive red ball is captivated…engaged.

Kurt is able to create engagement within communities without being present because he changes the environment. This reminds me of the Dance Floor Theory tip that says, “creating engagement does not mean you need to be there. It can happen anytime, anywhere.” 

Instead of you standing at a doorway trying to talk to everyone, maybe you can change the entrance in some way that captures people’s attention. Changing the environment can be a great way to increase engagement within your community. You can give garbage cans eyes, turn an elevator into a rocket ship, or even convert stairs into piano keys.

The Three Main Outcomes of Using Your Environment To Engagement Your Members

Causes a Pattern Interrupt:

The Neutrals in your community repeat the same daily patterns. They usually don’t want to talk to, or engage with, random people. They want yesterday to look just like today and today to look just like tomorrow. But if they see a giant red ball on their way to their room, they can’t help but react. The red ball creates an automatic pattern interrupt for this person.

Converts Neutrals to Ones:

The RedBall is an example of a Blender Event because it causes Neutrals to go from “Meh” to “Hmm.” If you remember from our Engagement Pyramid, once you get someone to start saying “Hmm” more often, they are now considered a One.

Engagement w/o Physical Presence:

Instead of physically being somewhere all day, you can change the environment in some way and still engage your members. For example, holding a Free Hugs sign all day would get a lot of people to go from “Meh-To-Hmm,” but it would be physically exhausting. On the other hand, installing a giant RedBall in the exact location would get a lot of people to go from “Meh-to-Hmm,” but you wouldn’t need to be there at all.

When it comes to engaging the disengaged, work smarter, not harder, by thinking about how you can manipulate the environment to get the attention of your Neutrals. If you can’t put up your own giant Redball, you can change the welcome signs in the community. For example, you could have signs that say, “Welcome, Robots!” Please make sure your software is up to date.” At this stage of engagement, not everything has to make sense; it just has to be able to capture their attention. 

P.S. You could do the same in your virtual community by changing your banner or profile image or posting something funny or unique.

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