Subject: Strategic Thinking – M&M Rider
Event: Van Halen’s self-titled album released, 1978
Imagine you read the following about a rock band: that the band demanded a specific menu of snacks in the backstage break area, and one specific item was M&M candies, but “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES!” Would you jump to the conclusion that this was the typical behavior of prima donna rock stars?
The above scenario is based on the contract of an actual band, Van Halen, whose self-titled first album was released on this day in 1978. And instead of being the behavior of a group of rock-and-roll divas, it was actually a demonstration of deft, strategic thinking.
As the band became more and more popular in the 1980s, their audiences grew and the size of the venues where they played became bigger and bigger. Included in their contract was a “rider,” a specific listing or specifications for lighting and sound, as well as details on other necessities, such as the set up of the backstage area, including details on what foods should be at the ready. This is where the rider stipulated that there must be M&Ms; however, is also stated “WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES.”
Van Halen’s rider was a 53-page tome, full of specific technical details, such as requirements for electrical power, for physical space, and for load-bearing capacity. In order for each show to be both successful and safe, the band needed to ensure that each detail in the rider had been followed to the T. This is where the absent brown M&Ms came into play. When arriving in a new city, the absence or presence of brown M&Ms provided a quick method for the band to determine whether or not the local promoter had paid attention to detail. If they found M&Ms sans brown ones, they could be pretty sure that the rest of the rider’s requirements had been met; however, if they saw brown ones, they could be certain that the rider had gone unread.
Recall, Retrieve, Recite, Ruminate, Reflect, Reason: What is the M&M Rider, and why was it a sign of sound, strategic thinking rather than a sign of arrogant, narcissistic rock stars?
Challenge – Seeing is Succeeding: Van Halen’s M&M rider is a great example that illustrates how paying attention to detail is an important skill for success. Do some research to discover some other examples of how paying attention to detail is an important ingredient in the recipe for success.
ALSO ON THIS DAY:
-February 10, 2015: The book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was published on this day in 2015. In his book, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari celebrates imagination as the single trait that most distinguishes the human species:
Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.
Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. Think Like a Freak. Penguin Books, 2015.