"You have no soul."

That's just one of many comments social media users in Japan have recently posted, in response to an outrageous publicity stunt by a local theme park. In an attempt to attract customers "Space World," located in western Japan, froze about 5,000 fish and other sea creatures under water.

Some fish were embedded into the ice with open mouths, their heads partially protruding. Another "school" of fish were laid out to spell the word "hello."

"We thought that we could provide an opportunity for visitors to enjoy ice-skating while learning about various kinds of fish," explained Toshimi Takeda, general manager of Space World (per The New York Times).

"We regret this terribly."

Instead of attracting visitors, the stunt outraged them. Many turned to social media to accuse the amusement park of insensitivity and animal cruelty (although the park claims the fish were already dead when it purchased them from a wholesale market).

Space World made a public apology on its website and announced the rink would be closed until further notice.

The Worst Part of It All

Obviously, this was a huge mistake on the part of park management.

Yes, the entire idea was in bad taste. But it could have all been avoided--if only there were a few employees who could have added perspective, who would have known this would upset a lot of people.

Oh, wait. There were.

"Internally we'd had discussions over the morality of the idea" before the rink was set up, Space World spokesman Koji Shibata said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"We received critical voices saying it is not good to use creatures as a toy, and that it is bad to let food go to waste," Shibata told the news agency.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify the power of emotions and to use that information to inform and guide behavior. The ability to identify with others' emotions can be extremely helpful in avoiding disastrous mistakes like this one.

[My forthcoming book, EQ, Applied, is a practical approach that illustrates just how EQ works--and doesn't work--in the real world.]

Here are three quick lessons every business can learn from Space World's epic fail:

1. Learn from critical feedback, especially when it involves others' emotions.

Criticism, although not always easy to accept, is a gift. Even if it's not completely well-founded, it will give you a window into other perspectives. Use that information to make better decisions.

2. Empower your employees.

Often times, it's the front-line workers who are most in touch with the customer. By seeking out these employees' opinions, and encouraging frank and open communication, you stay connected with the common, everyday challenges of your business.

3. Practice empathy.

If you're selling, you need to see things through the eyes of your customers. You may have the greatest idea in the world--in your mind.

But to everyone else, it's just a bunch of dead fish.

Published on: Nov 29, 2016
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