Do you have an Oscar Pick-’em pool going on there at the office? Movie trivia has seeped into our everyday lives, even at work—who hasn’t once exclaimed, “ Show me the money!” in meetings to break the tension? As Hollywood’s big night is right around the corner, we decided to take a look at the list of award-winning films and discovered solid entrepreneurial lessons hidden within a few of them.
Wall Street (1987)
Admittedly an obvious choice, the 1987 blockbuster directed by Oliver Stone started a dialogue about excess—excess of ambition, of greed, of everything. Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the now-iconic character Gordon Gekko, who uttered the famous line, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good," Though often tossed jokingly around boardrooms, that isn’t the lesson to learn from Wall Street. As we watch Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox become lured by the quick, “easy money” rise to wealth and his ultimate fall, the message that it takes time and hard work to achieve true success is the takeaway as the credits roll. Interestingly, there is a line at the very beginning of the film by Hal Holbrook’s character, Lou Mannheim: “Stick to the fundamentals. That's how IBM and Hilton were built. Good things, sometimes, take time.” That’s one nugget of wisdom to jot down and keep in a prime spot on the desk.
The Social Network (2010)
The rise of Facebook from its invention in a dorm room into a billion-dollar company is perhaps one of the most interesting topics many a business school graduate studies. It’s also the engrossing plot of The Social Network. It was a critical and commercial success in 2010, with eight nominations (it won three—Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Film Editing). There are many elements from the film for entrepreneurs to mull over (how to choose partners wisely and trust your instincts are just two), but there’s a shiny gem in one particular scene. When Mark, Eduardo, and Eduardo’s girlfriend Christy have a lunch meeting with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake’s character), the creator of Napster offers a bit of advice—to change the name from Thefacebook to just Facebook. Mark listened and, as we all know, took that advice. As a business owner, it ultimately comes down to what you think is best for your company, but meeting with and listening to fellow business owners— even the competition, even those that have failed in their own business ventures—can be instrumental to your business’s long-term success.
An animated movie about a rat cooking in Paris is definitely not on the required viewing list for entrepreneurs. However, this Pixar hit that won Best Animated Feature Film (and it was up for a total of five Oscars) offers a nice morsel of business wisdom. At the end of Ratatouille, after the surly restaurant critic Anton Ego learns of the truth behind who—or, more precisely, what—had donned the chef’s hat and created the magnificent cuisine he had just eaten (Remy the rat), he writes in his review: “Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.” It’s the love child of two bits of wisdom: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Think outside the box,” and it serves as a reminder to you as a business owner to keep your eyes open to who is around you. Look for employees beyond who you may think you “should” hire. Listen to everyone (including that 17-year-old intern). You may find the next genius idea for your company where you least expect it.