Sensory Deprivation

Abi Humayun - 2 mins

Who’s it for: Those in charge of organising internal events for employees

What’s it for: Creating a memorable experience for employees by awakening aspects of personalities that may be dormant the majority of the time

Much has been written about engaging all 5 senses when creating a strong connection to an idea. However, I experienced something powerful at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival recently that got me thinking, do we deprive ourselves of one of our senses enough? And how can this be used when engaging employees?

Picture the scene: Saturday night in Edinburgh. You are on your own. It’s dark. You stumble across a shipping container that invites you to experience “Coma” a sensory psycho-thriller. You think “why not?”.

In you go. You climb into the top bed of a triple bunk and settle on a mattress with a plastic cover. On your pillow are a set of headphones and the only light in the room is a dim red glow around a small shelf next to your bed. On the shelf is a single white pill. A voice comes through the headphones, “You know why you are here. It’s the best place for you. Why don’t you take the pill? It won’t harm you. It is neither good nor bad, taking it may enhance your experience, or it may not, so why not try it? You can swallow it, or chew it, or insert it.”

At this point, the dim red glow goes out, and you are plunged into total darkness. The darkest dark you have ever experienced. Immediately your senses are heightened. You have to rely on what you can hear (through the headphones), smell (random gassy aromas being pumped in) and feel (intuitively). The only escape is to take off the headphones to leave your current reality. But when you take off the headphones you are reminded that you are in a dark shipping container with 17 strangers and that, eerily, feels like a scarier situation than the psycho-thriller unravelling in your ears.

Powerful huh!

Translating this into business and specifically, the art of creating engaging experiences for employees, is there perhaps something we can learn from this? Rather than focusing on engaging all senses, think about heightening some by depriving others. The benefits would be heightened listening, focus, intuition and alertness.