I’ll bet some of you are judging me right now for writing a blog about a movie, you may also be wondering how a complex, fictitious, science-fiction drama can teach business owners anything at all! Please judge away I probably deserve it. The movie for me was provocative, attention-grabbing and unpredictable – all things memorable brands aspire to be – but these traits alone weren’t what really captured my attention.
Why this blog? I was staining retaining walls on Sunday and contemplating whether Interstellar would be the first Christopher Nolan movie I rate as a 10/10 on IMDB (the others all sitting on 9/10 in my book) on reflection I settled on 9/10 alongside Memento, Inception and Dark Knight. In considering it’s merits as a film my mind drifted to the key lessons I learned and the uncanny parallels these drew with business. You may be guessing I immensely respect Christopher Nolan as a Director and screen writer. His ability to orchestrate the many threads, disparate characters as they develop, intersecting though parallel yet overlapping story lines, reminds me of the role a conductor plays with an orchestra – the perfection of sound when a collection of disparate instruments playing differing notes come together in harmony, simply brilliant.
1. Holding a Vision and progressing towards this with a plan is a real key to success
In Interstellar they had a Vision and a Plan but they didn’t know exactly how they would get to where they were going, they knew they would encounter challenges and tried to prepare in advance for the risks and implications those challenges might bring – but encountered many they were not prepared for. When things didn’t go well they ensured the decisions they had to make aligned with their vision and overall plan.
As your company evolves and matures moving from startup mode where – as a business owner and leader – you can be involved in everything your business does in minute detail, your role also evolves stepping up a level to focusing on holding the Vision for your company / product / team, providing them with Direction and Conducting the many threads of people, process, technology, stakeholders, finance, governance (you name it) etc etc.
The lesson from Interstellar is that no matter how complex the challenge, how many dimensions you have to keep on top of as a leader having clarity of vision, a plan of attack and providing strong direction towards these will keep you from losing focus or momentum.
2. No matter how tight the time frame consider your options
No spoilers I promise but there were occasions within the plot of the movie where time was an incredibly precious resource, resulting in the characters making fast decisions as the conditions or environment encountered differed from their expectations. There were decisions made with massive implications for their overall vision both positive and negative – the negative impact usually occurred when they ignored the vision and high level plan acting on gut or emotion without those points of reference. I know it sounds calculated when I write it like this, promise it isn’t if you want to see the movie.
Making decisions under pressure of time is hard, some decisions can however lead to unintended consequences and implications that cost you down the line. The lesson from Interstellar is no matter how pressured you are for time take a few minutes out of your current pressure situation and try to and look at the problem from a different angle, even if you just spend 2 minutes! above all put a mental check in place on how the decision you are making aligns with your overall vision or goals.
3. Fortitude and Determination (or in other words, never give up)
As in every epic our hero’s demonstrated Fortitude and Determination in spades! they never gave up, extremely important for the storyline and success of the movie of course – yes I know it’s fiction and the hero’s always have fortitude and determination.
In all seriousness – business these are qualities we need to push through the hard times, side step the unexpected obstacles and carry on. It still continues to surprise me when people startup, it gets too hard and they take a day job with the intention of coming back to their startup later on – why did they start it at all? did they really think it through? did they ever have the fortitude and determination to push through the honeymoon period?
Fictitious epic story, love it or hate it there were many parallels between the creation and execution of Interstellar and the creation and execution of a business. Holding a vision is your job as leader as is acting as the conductor, making decisions and being decisive all with a back drop of riding through the rough times with fortitude and determination to succeed. I hope this hasn’t made any of this sound easy – it’s not! it is however rewarding and while we’re not in the business of saving the world moving our own projects to a successful conclusion and realising our own visions does feel a bit like it at time! Happy sharing, Vic.