Too many businesses find themselves unprepared when called upon to maneuver quickly around inevitable obstacles. Whether preparing for a disaster or for the everyday challenges of a competitive market, today's businesses can learn some important lessons from epic disaster movies.
Be Innovative — Independence Day
When aliens attacked Earth in Independence Day, what saved humankind was a creative solution — the smart thinking of David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum's character), who created a virus that disabled the alien assault.
Likewise, in business, you can disable your competition through innovation. Know your greatest competitive advantage, then ruthlessly invest in and pursue what sets you apart from others. Once you know your greatest differentiator, create a plan for how you're going to dominate the market in that area. Just as one person made a small difference in Independence Day, businesses can maximize limited resources by focusing on the area that really sets them apart.
Be Prepared — Titanic
Titanic is the classic "it can't happen to me" tale. Egos and a false sense of security prevented those in charge from preparing to have enough lifeboats on board. Even when the ship was hit, no one believed it could really sink.
In business, don't make the titanic mistake of thinking that you're too strong to fail. Expect the unexpected and stay humble. Identify the top systemic competitive and execution risks to your business and develop contingency plans to address them. You want to be proactive, not reactive, when dealing with business challenges. Also plan ahead with a clear vision of where you want your business to be in the quarters, years and even decades to come — then identify yearly and quarterly goals of how to get there.
Build Your A Team — Avengers
In the Avengers, the right team literally saves the world from disaster. The key to their success was not just complementary skill sets, but a leader (Sgt. Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson) who understood how to motivate the individuals to join forces.
In business, a successful team is comprised of people with the right combination of skills, personalities and diverse perspectives that enable the group to accomplish exponentially more together than they would as individuals. Choosing team members takes time and requires careful thought — individuals must be the right fit with company values, as well as have the right skill set and personality match for the team.
When interviewing candidates, ask questions that assess personality as well as aptitude. Ideally, you want a team mixed with introverts, extroverts, those who are inspirational and those who are detail oriented. Once you have your A-Team in place, you must protect it by letting go of poor culture fits — even if they are star performers.
Act Fast – Terminator 2
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton's character) in Terminator 2 takes swift action to stop the T-1000 machine that is sent back from the future to kill her son John Connor, the future leader of humanity. Having both your son and all of humankind in danger of destruction is pretty strong motivation to act quickly.
In business situations where circumstances are less dire than death or end of the world, it's tempting to "wait and see" rather than act. Yet indecision can cripple a business in today's fast-paced environment. Never forget that not making a decision is a decision in itself. Great leaders know how to make timely decisions with often imperfect information. They collect relevant data, but resist the urge to over-analyze it. Swift action will result in occasional failure, but that's OK as long as you can fail fast, course correct appropriately and keep moving forward.
Be Agile – 2012
In the movie 2012, John Cusack's character moves from overcoming one obstacle to the next in his path to protecting his family against the imminent floods that threaten to drown all but those preserved in an ark atop the Himalayas.
Both for apocalyptic floods and competitive business markets, agility is one's greatest asset. If your business can change course in a short timeframe, you are better able to outmaneuver your competitors. Obstacles are not always apparent until you're face-to-face with them, but by keeping up-to-date in real time on what's going on in the market and in your business, you will see signs of when you need to adjust.
Many of Silicon Valley's elite technology companies leverage Agile or Scrum methodologies with fast adoption cycles to keep them nimble. This engineering philosophy can be applied to your larger business as well; breaking down long-term plans into the shortest increments possible helps maintain flexibility and agility.
Be Committed – Godzilla
In Godzilla (the original 1954 version), neither heavy artillery nor electrical fences can deter the oversized reptile from wreaking havoc on Tokyo. There seems to be no hope for saving the city until Professor Serizawa steps in and sacrifices himself to deploy a weapon that disintegrates Godzilla. Serizawa saw a problem that he could uniquely solve and put himself out there fully in order to solve it. He was committed.
Leadership in business requires such commitment to the end. You have to prepare, innovate, and act swiftly and nimbly, to the extent that your survival depends on it. Of all who contribute to a company's success, executives and senior managers must be the most committed of all, leading from the front lines even when it requires personal sacrifice. Leaders with this level of commitment, as well as the right team by their side, are those who are able to create the next billion-dollar businesses.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessNewsDaily.