Ahmad Dhani's "We Will Rock You" video - another case of unintended consequences?
June 26, 2014
So, was Ahmad Dhani supporting or subverting Prabowo's election? Here's a little background information for those who don't know what I am talking. Ahmad Dhani is an Indonesian musician who made a rather slick music video in support of the Prabowo-Hatta camp. At face value, it seems like it was enthusiatic support for the presidential candidate. What was disappointing is how he chose to depict himself - one of his personas in the video sported Dhani wearing a Nazi uniform which looked almost identical to Heinrich Himmler's. This caused a huge stir on the Internet and on print media, and in defending himself, Dhani exclaimed, "The Indonesian people were not involved in killing millions of Jews, right?" The Prabowo-Hatta camp has distanced themselves from this video, but one cannot but be reminded of allegations of human rights violations levelled on Prabowo brought on by the video. So the question is, is this another case of unintended consequences? (Read this article by Rappler.com)
Whatever action we take, we are driven by intent. I cannot reiterate how important it is for us to be clear about our intent and how we are going to carry it out. On the face of it, it seems that Dhani's intent was to support the Prabowo-Hatta team. In making this video, he has cast his lot in a very public manner. Yet, by depicting a Nazi-style persona in the video, it had the unintended consequences of associating himself, the party he is supporting and indeed, even the whole country, with fascism (espeicially since he was seen holding up the Indonesian emblem while wearing the Nazi uniform). The connection between Prabowo and the military cannot be ignored here; and depicting a Nazi theme has all the elements of pushing people away from supporting Prabowo-Hatta. And this may bring up conspiracy theories like, "Was Dhani's intent really to support Prabowo-Hatta?" If it was, he sure had a strange way of doing that. A case of unintended consequences?
This brings me to another point in strategic thinking: our decisions and actions must be aligned with our intent. We must assess how well our actions will lead to the outcomes we desire as laid out by our success factors. And not just the big picture, but each sub-element, because, as they say, the Devil is in the details. In this case, the Devil was the Nazi uniform and that one element killed off the whole intent. If you watched the video, you will agree with me that he was produced quite well. It was edgy, it had all the right elements to push its message across and it could have been a great tool for support - save for its offensive Nazi part. That one part threw the whole product askew, and pushed it well away from its intent. Again, assuming that the intent was indeed to support Prabowo-Hatta.
The role of controversy
I know. Controversy creates talking points. It stirs the emotions which then stirs action. Creating a safe, fence-sitting video will not draw people to their cause. So throwing something like the Nazi uniform will effect that. But that's exactly where the unintended consequences will arise. It is so risky that it may tip the balance away from the intent. Take the case of the cab drivers who called for a strike against Uber; instead of pulling more people to their cause, it caused the Uber sign-up rate to go up by 8 times the normal rate. (Read our previous article about this here) Talk about unintended consequences! I fear that we are seeing another case of unintended consequences here; if indeed the intent was as stated.
Fortunately, the Indonesians that I know are level-headed and can look beyond the rhetoric of this video. Ultimately, it will just be a regrettable footnote of this presidential elections. Level-headedness is what we need to keep out unintended consequences, not just for the Indonesian presidential elections but for all decisions: think through your execution and ensure that all paths lead to the same intent.