Engagement is like teenage sex

Everyone talks about it.
Nobody really knows how to do it.
Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it.
So everyone claims they are doing it.
(inspired by Dan Ariely)

What “engagement” really stands for

There are so many options which make absolutely certain that everybody is doing something very different, or even contradictory.

Let’s check just the most often quoted.

CC-BY-2.0 2010 Ygor Oliveira https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Engagement_rings_photo_by_Ygor_Oliveira.jpg
CC-BY-2.0 2010 Ygor Oliveira

1st “promise to wed“, or the period of time between a marriage proposal and a marriage. You do not believe that this is the definition? Well google it.

Public Domainview termsFile:Flickr - The U.S. Army - Testing the new XM-25 weapon system.jpgCreated: 30 July 2009
PD-icon18 Public Domain

2nd “combat between two forces” neither larger than a division and not smaller than a company. And it may lasts few hours and is rarely longer than five days. As a tactical mission, the engagement is often a part of a battle.

writing a contract
PD-icon18 Public Domain

3rd the “contract between a professional firm and its client(s)” states the terms and conditions of the engagement, principally addressing the scope of the engagement and the terms of compensation for the firm.

courtesy voteyes4monroeschools.org, @2015
courtesy voteyes4monroeschools.org, @2015

4th a psychological investment in learning where students take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.

engagement gear
CC BY-SA 3.0 isparku on flickr – own work 2008

5th the state of gears being meshed into a working arrangement in which one part drives another.

And with all aspects of machinery and human body we can continue for long. Now come social interactions, where with the “social” could lead far far away into the animal realm. So only with that the list could long forever.

 Public Domain
PD-icon18 Public Domain

If we disregard the animal kingdom, mechanical engineering and physiology but we focus only on human interactions (military discarded), the engagement spell for a sort of a pledge. But is still helpful definition because its ambiguity again opens nearly unlimited list of options.

So next time some on the captains bridge says “let’s go for engagement“, just dare to ask “what a do you really want?

“Engage” can sounds so cool when you say it.

But despite awesome vanity metrics and consequent resources “spent”, do not be surprised by results if you do not make crystal clear what do you really mean.


From the series

  1. Engagement is like a teenage sex
  2. Employee Engagement is so simple