Driving Change

Driving Organizational Change: The Black Eyed Peas Flash Mob

I got a feeling … tonight’s gonna be a good night– Black Eyed Peas 

The Black Eyed Peas opened for Oprah Winfrey’s 24th season kickoff party in the fall of 2009. The performance was great. But what was spectacular was that in the course of a few minutes after the Black Eyes Peas started performing the entire audience of over 10,000 people were dancing in tandem to the beats of “Tonight’s gonna be a good night”. It was a surreal experience—the largest flash mob in Chicago with more than 10,000 people.


It started with one person dancing and ended with all 10,000+ people following along. How did the group manage to get that many pieces moving in the same way? Or, more simply put, why did the flash mob work?

A few things seemed to happen to get it all moving… First, the girl in blue starts dancing. She’s hyped up, and it doesn’t take long for others to notice. Then, around minute one, the song gets personalized: “Twenty-four seasons, let’s live it up. Look how she smash it. Jump off that sofa. Keep watching Oprah,” and that’s when we start to see the crowd picking up and really getting into it.

Suddenly it’s the whole group in the front moving and shaking, and from there it keeps happening. The right vibe is flowing. To the naked eye, it seems like the fire caught on from just one person and some personalization, but it took dozens of other invisible parts to fuel it.

Here’s what it really took:

  1. The Visionary (Oprah): Created a shared sense of purpose to have fun
  2. The Architect (Michael Gracey): Defined the central concept of the “Ripple Effect”
  3. The Choreographer (Ashley Wallen): Ensured moves are simple enough for everyone to emulate
  4. The Core Team (twenty professional dancers): Taught 800 people throughout the crowd the moves before the show
  5. The Crazy First One (Girl in blue dress): Danced before anyone else. Took a chance.

As we think of driving change in organizations, the Black Eyed peas flash mob provides inspiration. The elements required are the same —the shared sense of purpose, personalization, central concept, simple moves, role models, and simple movements. Want to drive change in your organization?  Who will play the roles of the visionary, architect, choreographer, core team and the crazy one?

Rajat Mishra 


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