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What Can Business Learn From Classic Movies?

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It is not a good climate for business success right now. Unless you’re in one of the massive multinationals that have just swept the prospect of taxes under the rug for another year, the chances are you’re on the alert for a failure that could mean the end of your company. But on the other hand President Obama has said in his latest inauguration speech that there are great opportunities now just waiting to be grasped. Could that really be the case? If you watch enough movies, it just might be.

The Seeds of Failure

Knowing the value of failure is important. When you watch Yojimbo or the identically structured Fist Full of Dollars you see your protagonist beaten down from their pedestal and forced to face the cost of failure. But is that the point to give up? Of course not: it only adds to the pathos of success in the real climax of the film. This might sound like a simple lesson, but it’s at the root of all motivation, especially when it comes to your working life. You have to recognise that failure has to happen, accept it, and build on those lessons in your next endeavour.


What these movies also contain is a powerful message about how to envisage your success out of your failure. In a western or samurai movie you might have a direct opponent to study. In business you have to look at the approaches of other companies that are succeeding, then picture the ideal version of your business from that – whatever the current restraints now – and use it to work towards that goal. Use these lessons as a bit of free business advice.

What Can We Do Right Now?

Drama thrives on wanting something and facing adversity in getting it. One favourite drama devices is to force ‘normal’ things to happen fast. In the business movie classic Glengarry Glen Ross Alec Baldwin tells a room of salesmen they have one night to make their leads work: first prize is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is ‘You’re fired.’ In another example of time pressure, Twelve Angry Men shows a jury who must decide on a verdict for a murder before they leave the room.

What can businesses learn from this? Thinking about how you would make something happen if it had to happen now is a brilliant mindset for a business leader. It means you think ahead of the sluggish pace of office life and can even drag projects along with you. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it is a brilliant lesson to take to heart. These lessons can be applied to pretty much every business, so take heed!


Thanks to Gary Haile for this post. Gary is a movie buff and a successful entrepreneur who loves nothing more than to blog about his two favourite subjects; business advice and movies.

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