I had the great fortune to attend Carnival in Rio de Janeiro this year. The main event of Carnival is their Samba School Parade. In a stadium seating nearly 100,000 people, 12 schools (krewes in the New Orleans Mardi Gras sense) of 3,000 to 5,000 dancers parade (dance) approximately 1 kilometer over the course of 75 minutes each on two nights (six schools each night). Each school is judged on ten different requisites: Floats & decorations (incredibly elaborate and far beyond Mardi Gras and Blaine Kern), Drums, Front Line, Overall, Theme, Performance, Costumes, Harmony, Flagbearer and Escort, and Samba Theme.
The event starts each night at approximatly 9:30 p.m. and ends at about 5:30 a.m. I am not certain of the exact reason for this being an all night event, but I can guess that since it takes place during the middle of summer (remember that Brazil is south of the equator) it would be impossible for some of the dancers in their elaborate costumes to survive the daytime heat while dancing frantically but exquisitly for 75 straight minutes.
Each of the 12 schools is judged on all 10 requisites by 5 different judges. The high and low scores in each category are thrown out, so there are a total of 30 scores in all. The scoring is on a scale of one to 10, with tenth of a point scoring allowed. I saw no score lower than a 9.0 in any category by any school, so effectively it was all about the tenths of a point all night.
This event is the equivalent of the Super Bowl in Brazil. It is broadcast live on TV each night, and the scoring show is also broadcast live over several hours a couple of days later. Everyone in Brazil has their favorite school that they pull for. The 12 schools in the competition change each year as the lowest drop down to a lower division, and the highest from the lower division move up. It really is elaborate and intensly competitive.
I attended the first night of the competition this year, and saw the school that won, Unidos da Tijuca, immediately followed by the school that placed last of the 12, Viradouro. The contrast of the two back to back was incredible, hence the title of this blog. Each school had a similar number of dancers, similar floats, similar music, similar budget, the exact same amout of time to prepare, the same stage on which to perform, but the results could not have been more different. Tijuca was excited, engaged, poised, practiced, enthusiastic, prepared, planning to win. Viradouro was clearly just going through the motions.
One school made the commitment to win. One school had decided to participate. I wondered for the rest of the night what it was that had made the incredible difference in the performance between the two schools. Unlike sports, where an outstanding performance by a Michael Jordan or a Drew Brees can carry a team to success, this was 5,000 individuals with no single star performer or even very many that stood out individually. My conclusion was that it was simply a collective decision to excel. Something or someone had inspired the school of Tijuca to excel and had convinced them that they could win. And they had decided to win. Their final score was 299.9, a mere tenth of a point from perfection.
What does it take to convince your team, your employees, your group, that it has what it takes to win? Who can inspire the group to perform at its peak level? Is everyone committed to success?
In Good to Great Jim Collins talks about getting the flywheel started turning. Everyone is working towards the success of the company. In the case of Tijuca, clearly the flywheel started turning early in the year. They worked incredibly hard to put in a fantastic performance. Getting everyone working together for success in your company may not be an easy thing. But once that flywheel starts to turn, it can yield amazing results. The majesty of the Tijuca performance was a beautiful example.