Everything is awesome, or as Douglas Rushkoff wrote "Everything is everything". In our hyper-connected world you can basically draw similarities and principles from anything to everything and back again. This fact of the digital age is not lost in the recent hit The Lego Movie.
Some have called The Lego Movie an anti-business attack while others have hailed it has a highly entertaining 100 minute commercial. Regardless of your political ideology or feelings of the Lego brand, refuting the innovative script and enjoyable execution of this "kid movie" would be challenging.
Trent Williams, a PhD Candidate at the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington (and one of my two role model brothers!), dug deeper than entertainment value and simple enjoyment when evaluating this film. I exchanged some thoughts with him this past week after my wife and I were able to finally go see the film.
Greg: I understand you went and saw The Lego Movie with your family a while back. What were your initial thoughts and reactions to the film in relation to entrepreneurship and business in general?
Trent: My initial thought was "Wow! This is Entrepreneurship all over the place!!" What caught my attention in particular was the notion that individuals are capable of novel ideas and don't need a predetermined solution in order to get started. In entrepreneurship, and especially in concepts associated with design thinking, individuals are encouraged to "think by doing," gaining important experience by simply building prototypes. This process of building something quickly (even though it is imperfect) can tell you a lot about an idea, much more than if you just imagine it.
Greg: Yes, the concept of rapid and agile development was striking. It seems that when the pressure is on and we have to try new things than our thought process is quite different than when in other situations.
Trent: In the Lego movie, nobody (in the Lego community) was imagining anything let alone building things. That is, except for the "master builders" who were able to build anything with whatever was around them. I saw those master builders as "serial entrepreneurs", capable of building new creations at every turn. Serial entrepreneurs are able to see valuable combinations of resources that others don't. They might even view waste or scrapped resources as possible inputs to a process or product. It was neat to see this play out on the screen, as people rapidly thought about what was on hand and created items of value as a result. Very cool.
Greg: Yes, the opening scene with Emmit starting his day surrounded by unimaginative characters was both hilarious and a little frightening because it isn't hard to see how come cultures and pressures foster such a lifestyle.
Trent: Also, the mere notion of belief is critical. The protagonist in the film doesn't believe he's capable of building anything ... as a result, he's not! The first step is believing, then making lots and lots of mistakes in a quick and affordable way so you can learn. As the movie progresses, he has a lot of these types of interactions that get him to believe he can create something of value. As I talk with me students, they often fail to see their unique value they might have, and I think that all starts with a lack of belief (in themselves and that there's something interesting out there for them to do). But if we can think about what we can do, and then if we can interact with people who have a different life experience, there's a good chance we'll find combinations that are quite interesting and useful.
Greg: I liked the unique way the film showed in a literal sense the Pygmalion Effect - or how when we believe something about ourselves we can really change our behavior to match those beliefs. Each character had to realize they were "special" and just seeing this truth altered their identity which in turn changed their actions. What other connections did you see in the movie to principles you are researching or teaching?
Trent: I thought the whole movie really told a great story about organizational renewal. Gluing parts of organizations might feel stable, but then there's no renewal, growth, and development. Many people are nervous about change (hence the reason change management consultancies are such a huge industry) but organizational renewal and change is necessary in order to move industries, communities, and society forward. By considering new technologies or entrepreneurial ideas, people's way of life can be improved. If we're rigid in holding onto a technology or organizational system just because that's how it always was, then renewal cannot take place.
Greg: I also appreciated the twist of having the story be about a father and son relationship, and the tension between conformity and organized chaos. The powerful creativity of the son wouldn't be possible with the worlds and characters provided by the father, but the stories and experience would be bland and meaningless in the father's world without the creativity and rule-breaking of the son's narrative. Does any of this have anything to do with your research concerning entrepreneurial responses to natural disasters?
Trent: While that wasn't the primary thing that triggered my thinking, I do think there's a connection. For example, in my current research project I'm finding that for those who do something, that is they act in creating a venture to help others, they end up helping themselves as well (that's a very simplified version). I think it was the same in the Lego Movie where at first, everyone was helpless. But when they started acting, it helped them both physically and mentally. This goes back to the most basic principle of service (in my opinion). But service isn't always easy, straightforward, etc. (i.e., rake someone's leaves), and can often require us to leave our comfort zones entirely and try something all together new (both for us and potentially for the world).
Trent is a PhD Candidate studying entrepreneurship and strategic management at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Bloomington. His focus is on entrepreneurial emergence under conditions of resource constraint, entrepreneurial resilience and decision making, corporate entrepreneurship (address challenges of ambidexterity) and entrepreneurial opportunity discovery. Trent's research includes field research exploring organizational emergence conducted in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, R&D product extension / termination decisions in a large multi-national based in Europe, and archival data based studies exploring entrepreneurship under resource constraint (US and Australia).
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.