Marty McFly couldn’t stop himself.
That DeLorean-driving, purple-underpants wearing, rock-‘n’-roll-inventing time traveler sat there, his eyes bugged and his mouth agape, while the busboy from Mr. Carruthers’ coffee shop ripped his father a new—well, whatever they said back in 1955—for backing down against some bullies.
“Stand tall, boy,” the busboy told teenage George McFly. “Don’t you know if you let people walk over you now, they’ll be walking over you the rest of your life? Look at me. I’m going to make something of myself. I’m going to night school, and one day I’m going to be somebody.”
And that’s when Marty, who could see the future because he was from the future, couldn’t hold back. He’d held out as long as humanly possible, stopping himself from spilling the beans on what lay ahead for the busboy. Then, in an instant, he hit the point of no return and had to let it fly.
“That’s right!” Marty said, his voice rising in excitement. “He’s going to be mayor!”
The busboy, a wide-smiled, gold-toothed young man named, aptly enough, Goldie, did a double-take. He paused for a second and raised his index finger into the air.
“Mayyyyor!” Goldie Wilson said, exaggerating the “ay” like Arthur Fonzarelli would do after
elbowing a jukebox. “Now that’s a good idea. I could run for mayor.”
Which he did. And won. At least once, because, according to the movie, he was up for re-election in 1985.
And what does this have to do with business?
Turns out quite a bit.
Next time you’re in a discussion with someone at work, or with a lot of someones at work, perhaps at one of those fancy-pants offsite corporate strategy sessions, there’s one word you need to keep in the front of your mind and on the tip of your tongue.
Synergy? Ideation? Deliverable? Paradigm?
No, no, no, and hell no!
The real value in these mass mind melds—and there is indeed value—is to create as many of these “mayor moments” as possible. Forget the parade of PowerPoints that leave you glassy-eyed like Michael Spinks when he got knocked out by Mike Tyson or Mike Tyson when he got knocked out by Buster Douglas or Buster Douglas when he got knocked out, well, by just about everybody.
Suffer through those team-building exercises. And hold your nose and avert your eyes as you are bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the mountains of endless pie charts, pivot tables and that other thingy—you know, the one with the Olympic rings that partially overlap each other.
Pish-posh on all that.
Instead, focus on the dialogue. The questions and answers. The smarmy remarks and the witty retorts. The off-the-cuff comments and the sidebar convos. The unscripted commentary. The jokes. The verbal volleys in an argument.
The things that give you an idea to do something different, an idea you wouldn’t have had unless someone else put it into your head.
“That’s right! He’s going to be mayor!”
Here are two more examples, these from the real world rather than the big screen.
We Salute You
In the summer of 1998, a few months before
Bellagio was set to open on the Las Vegas Strip, two mid-level administrators were given the seemingly simple assignment of naming the newsletter for the table games department. Seemingly simple.
The men struggled—oh, how they struggled—to come up with anything that didn’t sound totally unimaginative (Table Games Quarterly), didn’t sound like a snack pie (Table Talk), didn’t sound pompous and douchey (The Bellagio Times), and didn’t sound gratuitously alliterative (Bellagio Bugle).
But then, one day as summer turned to fall, the two men were driving to the property and one of them sneezed.
“Salute,” said the other man.
“What does that mean?” the sneezer asked.
“It means ‘God bless you’ in Italian.”
For five-plus years and 20-plus issues, the table games newsletter at Bellagio was called “Salute.” The name expired only when the newsletter itself did. Like the word resort, it’s half-Italian and half-American. Wishing your employees good health and, if you take the English spelling (no accent mark) and pronunciation, it’s also a physical gesture of respect.
Lucky this wasn’t a German-themed resort, or the newsletter would have been called “Gesundheit.”
Turn that Faucet
Two men—no, not the same bozos that got bailed out by an allergy attack—were stuck behind each other in the buffet queue at a Shuffle Master executive offsite meeting in the late 2000s. The company, which historically only leased its table games, had recently sold off a lot of them to casinos, leaving a hole in its recurring revenue base.
A hole big enough to ride an elephant through.
While the men picked through the food choices, one said to the other, “We need to come up with something to turn the faucet back on. I go into casinos now and all I see are games that don’t generate revenue for us.”
“Do you mean something we add on to the games?” the other man said. “Something to increase the hold and the win?”
“What, like progressive jackpots?”
Between the lunch line that day and the deadline for this column, Shuffle Master (now Scientific Games), which didn’t even possess a progressive system at the time, now has 5,000 of them in casinos around the world. Throw in felt upgrades like 3 Card Bonus for Let it Ride, 6 Card Bonus for Three Card Poker and Bad Beat Bonus for Ultimate Texas Hold’em—another offshoot of the faucet comment—and you’re talking 7,000 placements.
All from a 20-second exchange between the rice pilaf and the mystery meat.
That’s how mayor moments work. You never see them coming, but when they do, they turn on that little lightbulb over your head.