When People Collide

by  Shawn Murphy  |  Leadership Development

We’re always behind this metal and glass. Nobody touches you.” If you saw the move Crash you may recognize this line. The symbolism is piercing: We’re either tough like metal or ready to break with any pressure like glass.

This is the fragility in life. People collide. The kicker, though, is in the second sentence in the opening phrase to this post – Nobody touches you.

In business we ignore our fragility. Too often we act like we are metal. The moment someone touches you that piercing armor bounces hard up against that touch. Nobody touches you! In business, we have goals to achieve. There is no time for emotion. You brake and you’re no good to the business. You need to be tough as steel.

Obviously the metal and glass is a carefully crafted self-created shield. It’s an aid to create short cuts through our work. Fight for our agendas; our ideas; our vision. It helps us to reduce distractions. Get down to work. If we get close to the people at work, then we can compromise our plans for achievement.


The truth is we can’t exist or do good work without each other. We’re hard-wired for community. When people collide overlooking this simple truth there is conflict.

And at the heart of conflict is misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding, meet your brothers in battle: metal and glass. Or so the old way goes.

Our leaders in government. Our leaders in corporations. Our leaders in small businesses. You. Me. We are not untouchable. We need each other.

We need each other to reimagine how we work with one another.
We need each other to change how we measure value creation.

We need each other to stop this divisive battle of metal and glass colliding, pretending that we’re untouchable. Fighting believing my idea is better than your idea.  Amidst the fighting we stopped hearing each other.

We must let down our shields, assess the broken glass and twisted metal, and take in the damage we’ve caused. Stop.

Take one side-step away from the distraction. Look.

We are alive to make this world one that works for everyone. In business we’ve lost sight of this – on the whole. Business is a great enabler of fulfilling this outcome.

When people collide it can’t be a reminder that we need each other. When people collide it’s an acknowledgement that good people and good ideas are working together to create value, to cause meaningful, purposeful, people-centered changes in our institutions and businesses.

Will we lose the metal and glass? No. It’s in our nature to collide.

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By shawn-murphy
Full Bio Coming Soon

What People Are Saying

Frank Sonnenberg  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Great post Shawn. If we want to see whether it’s possible to be people-centric AND goal oriented, all we have to do is look at our non-profit organizations. People come to work everyday excited about what they do and motivated to make a difference. As George Bush (41) once, said, “It’s the vision thing”

Have a great day!


Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Indeed. That “vision thing” is key. Reinforcing it even better. I appreciate your support, Frank.

Mary C Schaefer  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Shawn, you know that this is close to my heart. I love this: “We’re hard-wired for community. When people collide overlooking this simple truth there is conflict.”

Stated so simply and beautifully.

We may have to collaborate on this topic some day.


Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

I welcome a collaboration. =)

Susan Mazza  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Very compelling Shawn. So many believe that wall is protecting them from the collisions happening to begin with, when the truth is we can’t prevent “collisions”, especially if we want to be an instigator of progress. You have me thinking that it is perhaps the glaas and metal walls we construct and maintain that makes”colliding” a damaging exeperinece rather than simply an opportunity to learn and grow both individuqlly and together.

Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Excellent, Susan. Going with your thought about the glass and metal causing the damage, their genesis come from the choices we make that put them there in the first place. There’s pain, fear, anger. Left unresolved, colliding makes for fireworks.

Jane Perdue  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Shawn – super post! Far too many workplaces focus on just logic – numbers, the bottom line, return to shareholders, etc., etc. The paradox/polarity counter-balance to logic is emotion…and workplaces need a major dose of it. There’s plenty of room for accountability and compassion…we just have to want it more and reward it more than we currently do.

Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

The tension between profit and people is indeed one that managers in the 21st century must learn to “balance” better.


Peggy Fitzpatrick  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Wow – thought provoking piece. This especially strikes me: “Take one side-step away from the distraction. Look.”

We are so distracted by everything that we aren’t noticing anything. I see people talking on their cell phones at all hours of the day and night. We are a society of over-connected, non-communicators. The basic messages of being human: make eye contact, be polite etc are going by the wayside.

Let’s become less distracted and focus on the present.My very best ideas and inspiration come from conversations with my friends and family.
Thanks for making me think!

Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

What a great line: “We are a society of over-connected, non-communicators.” Thanks for checking out this post, Peg.

Dance on my friend,

Page Cole  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the reminder that business can be, and should be win/win… That truth can get lost in the busyness of business, when it should be the central truth!

Shawn Murphy  |  11 Oct 2011  |  Reply

An image comes to mind with the “busyness of business.” It’s an image of a hamster wheel. Running faster and faster and going nowhere. So much we miss running in the busyness.


Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)  |  12 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Wisdom in your words, pure and simple! I’ll “collide” with you, any day Shawn!

Shawn Murphy  |  12 Oct 2011  |  Reply

I think you made a new phrase. I like it. Here’s to colliding!


Tony Crabbe  |  13 Oct 2011  |  Reply


Lovely blog. Insightful and beautiful. Wonderful to read a business blog that reads like poetry.

A real pleasure to read


Join The Conversation