Sometimes, all you need after work is to chill out and watch something entertaining. No need to feel guilty about that – movies and TV shows can be a wonderful source of work and business lessons, too!
Movies and TV shows tell stories. And telling stories is a striking characteristic that makes a human being. We have always learned from the experiences of others first. Cinema, television and streaming services are just another iterations of this learning mechanism.
Primarily, the film industry is a source of amusement to us. That’s true. At the same time, however, they provide numerous life lessons. Now and then a movie also happens to teach us something about business. With this in mind, we’ve had a little brainstorming session, collected some of our favorite movies and TV shows and thought about what we can learn from them...
Walk the Line – Stay true to yourself and act according to your talents
You’ve most likely heard of Johnny Cash, but are you familiar with his story? That story of a simple man from humble circumstances, who experienced a great loss in early years, later achieved great fame, suffered a heavy drug addiction and succeeded to overcome it again.
A 2005 biopic, Walk the Line, tells this story and it teaches you a valuable lesson and a rule to live by: find your true self, identify your talents and never pretend to be someone you’re not.
Trying to get a recording contract and finally make it in the music business, Johnny Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix) attends different auditions. The year is 1955, the place is Memphis, Tennessee and every musician in sight is playing the same old song we’ve all heard a thousand times. Johnny is trying to fit in and fails terribly. The producer is looking for originality:
If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song. […] One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing?”
Dallas Roberts as Sam Phillips in Walk the Line
This is the breakthrough moment for Cash. He sings his heart out with Folsom Prison Blues, a raw and intimate song he wrote while he was serving in the Air Force. He shows what he’s good at while remaining his true self. Eventually, it turns out to be his way to success. Before he made the breakthrough, he had to renounce the "well-tried" approach of other musicians and make use of his own talents.
Stranger Things: Be open to change
We’ve probably all binged this Netflix megahit. Stranger Things is a guilty pleasure for all generations and a very inspiring story as well: some businessmen might learn a lot from a bunch of children on track of mysterious phenomena.
Stranger Things is a coming-of-age story first and foremost. The main characters face new challenges with every season and as they grow into young adults, they must overcome boundaries and face their fears. It can be seen as some kind of identity-finding process - a thought that yet needs to be internalized for the business world. After all, we also face new challenges every day. But there is something most of us understand quite late: These challenges are fundamental for our development. As Einstein once said quite aptly: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." It is up to every single one of us to grow in challenges and seize the opportunities that arise.
From the ST kids change is also demanded in form of a change of perspectives. The “Upside Down” aka the “Otherworld” creates a completely new view of things. Even if we can confidently forego a scary world full of monsters and darkness, it does not hurt to look at things differently from time to time: to empathize with colleagues and customers, consider other views, balance alternatives to the project and throw old patterns overboard sometimes.
Mindhunter – think outside the box
The Netflix original Mindhunter from 2017 is a crime series based on the eponymous True Crime book of the former FBI agent John E. Douglas - thus, based on true events. What this series conveys? How important it is to be open minded while staying true to your own convictions.
Set in 1979, it tells the story of Holden Ford, a young agent working at a Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI.The Character is modeled after the author John E. Douglas himself. Ford, along with fellow colleague Bill Tench and psychologist Wendy Carr, is trying to peer behind the killer’s face, understanding their thinking, and creating patterns - with numerous interviews with convicted serial killers.
Now you’re wondering: What’s so special about that? Well, back in the ‘70s the term “serial killer” didn’t even exist. The whole phenomenon was relatively new, mysterious and obviously terrifying. Thus, in the wake of the Manson family murders, Son of Sam and other infamous multiple murderers, there was a keen interest to explain what was going on. Douglas aka Holden, who is dubbed the “modern Sherlock Holmes” (1.03) within the series, follows a completely new approach at this time. He focuses on criminal psychology and brings the profiling methodology to the FBI. The FBI on the other hand had to break out of it’s old patterns and change its methods along with the this approach.
Even in everyday business, it can be useful at times to think outside the box and break new ground. Innovation, creativity and a certain amount of courage are required, and these qualities have always been the hallmarks of progress and success.
There is a neat Einstein aphorism again: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Mindhunter brings this to mind quite urgently.
Peaky Blinders: No man is an island
Tommy Shelby is powerful, charismatic and ruthless. He is the head of the Birmingham Gang Peaky Blinders, at the head of an influential "family empire". That is obvious. But what stands out even more: Without his family it would be quite different for Shelby.
Yes indeed, Shelby is a very powerful person. But he’s got his demons, too. He suffers traumatic experiences from World War I. If these traumas threaten to overwhelm him, the family comes to support the Shelby Company Ltd. business. Peaky Blinders shows that a team that holds together can be much more successful than a single person. There's Polly Gray, a real matriarch, who managed the Peaky Blinders when the men were at war. Even after Shelby's return she remains an important business advisor and the voice of reason for the group. And don’t forget about the invaluable supporter Arthur Shelby - Tommy's brother and right-hand man.
You can tell: no man is an island. Only together you’re strong.
Captain Marvel: Never give up
And what could you possibly learn about business from superhero movies? Well, playing the superhero at work would probably be a bit too much of a good thing. Marvel, however, teaches us an important lesson that everyone should really take to heart. In particular (but not exclusively) in relation to the business.
Let's take a quick look at the latest addition to the hero-verse. Captain Marvel, a woman who evolves into one of Galaxy's most powerful superheroes as she struggles to achieve her goals on Earth since childhood. We see her falling off her bike as a child, tumbling on the baseball field and slipping off the rope while exercising in the Air Force. Carol keeps falling. But more importantly, Carol also keeps getting up again! And she does so also in form of Captain Marvel alias Verse during the Kree-Skrull War.
The lesson is a common thread that stubbornly goes through all Marvel productions: Never give up, no matter how many setbacks you have to take. And that will probably happen quite often in the workplace. But only those who pursue their goals, are brave and do not back down when faced with problems, will have long-term success.
Mr. Robot - don't forget about cybersecurity
We would not be Stackfield if we did not address Cybersecurity, right? Well, it is important, isn’t it?
The whole plot of the TV show revolves around security breaches. The protagonist, Elliott, works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a genius hacker by night. Once you see how easily he can hack into everyone’s accounts, you’re going to rethink your password choices immediately. Mr. Robot will also teach you not to trust strangers with your devices nor insert suspicious USB flash drives into your laptop. Most breaches don’t even require a great mind to crack the code – a little recklessness is all it takes. Data theft, for example, is often much more subtle than generally assumed.
From the very first episode of Mr. Robot, one crucial business lesson strikes out: never underestimate the importance of cybersecurity!
To all the movie junkies out there: it’s worth taking a littler closer look while watching TV shows and keep an open eye for hidden messages. Cinematic staging, dramaturgy and narratives are never random and sometimes we recognize are deeper meaning, hidden messages and even some helpful lessons. Then, a film production is not only able to entertain, but also to motivate and encourage reflection.