As published in the Sunday Star Times, October 24, 2015: read it online here.
“The Martian” offers plenty of learnings for business, writes Zac de Silva.
I recently saw Ridley Scott’s new movie epic, The Martian.
Whether it is scientifically sound or not, it is certainly a great story of human spirit and winning against all the odds.
Like most business people, I’m always thinking about business. So, I found myself thinking of how many amazing life lessons there were in the movie that could be applied to business.
Here are eight lessons The Martian can teach you about business and personal performance (caution: spoilers ahead):
1) Matt Damon was able to grow food because he was a botanist – not a bad skill if you are marooned on Mars. What is the one critical business skill you either need to get better at – potentially for survival – or at least consider out-sourcing because the way you currently do it is not up to scratch?
2) Teamwork was critical for a successful mission to Mars. The best companies I see have amazing teamwork. They might not always agree 100 per cent but they have a fair way of working through issues. How is your business’ teamwork? Who are the weak-links and what can you do about it?
3) Damon surviving on Mars for a long time was his impossible dream. Does your business have an impossible dream? It is a proven fact that if you have goals, you are more likely to be successful. What goals does your company need to create and are they at an A-grade or a C-grade? They should be an A-plus grade or they need revision.
4) Speaking of achieving the impossible, you need to have a score sheet to track whether you are getting that little bit closer every day. Damon was marking off his time on Mars and measuring other things. The best companies openly share where they are on track, goal wise, and where they are not on track. It doesn’t help anyone having your head buried in the sand. Transparency of how you are travelling will make you so much more successful, especially if you do something about what it is telling you.
5) In the movie, to have the best chance of “mission success”, NASA had to work with China National Space Administration – a competitor. Without CNSA the movie would have had a different ending. Is there any potential partner, even a competitor, who you should be considering working with to help make your business more successful? There must be someone out there who you can mutually do some things with to go to the next level?
6) Something I come across in business all the time is that companies are not making the most of their assets. In the movie, there was a clear advantage in knowing what older assets existed and the good they could be used for. What old assets (product assets, physical assets, IP, people, brand power etc) do you have sitting in your business that you are not making the most of? Find them and then use them – there’s no point knowing of any under-utilised assets if you cannot do anything about putting a plan in place to use them.
7) I found it really interesting how NASA delayed sharing the news with Damon’s team that he had indeed survived. Business is often only as good at how good you are at sharing feedback with your greater team. People want to know as much information as possible and feel they can do a better job when they are better informed. Is there any feedback you have not given to someone that you should have? And how can you do this best?
8) Perhaps the biggest learning from The Martian was how important it is to prepare for the worse case scenario and to have clear procedures around these. In the context of your business, what risks exist that you have not thought about? What are the worst few things that could happen to threaten your survival and how do you go about making sure that these things never happen?
Go and see the movie if you haven’t already. Or just use my cheat sheet (from questions I created for users of AccMe) and implement some business learnings from The Martian to perform at your best.
Zac de Silva is an award-winning business coach and owns www.businesschanging.com, the virtual coaching question software www.accme.co and is co-founder of www.nurturechange.com the Fiji business retreat November 11–15, 2015.
– Sunday Star Times