Hollywood is big business. Summertime is a competition between studios where the biggest explosions and craziest plots (now in 3D!) equal enormous profits. What about business in movies? Turns out, there are some awful business decisions being made not by the studios but by the characters in their films. To get you ready for a summer of superheroes and things going pew-pew-pew, here’s a look at 3 of the all-time worst business decisions made in films. Don’t forget the popcorn!
Lex Luthor’s plan in Superman: a lesson in hiring staff
Mr. Luthor is supposedly one of the world’s smartest men, and has built a multibillion dollar company through his intelligence. His master plan is to divert nuclear missiles to cause the San Andreas Fault to drop California into the ocean, turning his newly acquired desert property into prime oceanfront real estate.
There’s an environmental lesson here—nuclear winter and the massive debris field wouldn’t exactly make for the best resort property. But there’s a key lesson in how to bring in the right talent for your team. Luthor leaves the execution of his plan in the hands of one of the most incompetent henchmen of all time, Otis. Surely the smartest man in the world would have hired some better staff? No one wants an Otis on their team.
Building the giant walls in Pacific Rim: why you listen to data analysts
In the near future, the Earth is under attack by giant monsters (kaiju) from under the ocean. So far, the only effective means of fighting them were giant robots. Naturally, the leaders of the free world decide that the robots are too expensive and instead spend billions creating a really big wall—which turns out to be completely ineffective at stopping kaiju that can simply climb over it, like a sci-fi Maginot Line.
This is why you listen to your analysts. The data scientists in Pacific Rim told everyone who would listen that the kaiju are getting bigger and it would only be a matter of time before they walked over the walls. The only way to stop them? More giant robots. When the fate of the world (or your business) is at stake, listen to your data analysts. They understand context and can see patterns that lead to avoiding enormous, expensive blunders.
Rebuilding the Death Star in Return of the Jedi: failure to innovate
The Galactic Empire built a huge space station with the power to destroy entire planets, using a massive amount of resources and manpower. The Rebel Alliance discovered a weakness and with about 30 pilots managed to blow it to smithereens. Rather than innovate a new solution to controlling the galaxy, the Empire decides to build… another Death Star. Which the Rebels promptly blow up.
Innovation could have saved the Empire an enormous amount of resources. First, whatever security breach the Rebels exploited to get the Death Star plans was clearly not filled. Second, the Emperor knew the Rebels would try to attack and let them come anyway, despite the new Death Star’s reactor being totally exposed. He might as well have painted a giant bullseye on it. Success in business and in crushing the rebellion requires stepping outside your comfort zone—not repeating the same mistakes over and over.
Mistakes of Dr. Evil-like proportions are common as plot foils—but real businesses need not worry about making such errors if they hire intelligently, listen to their analysts, have access to the proper data, and properly innovate.