GHOSTBUSTERS: far from being outdated, this film will teach you about INNOVATION!
You have two ways to increase your chances of success in innovation: you either have experience or have a good mentor. If you do not have either, know that you still have another possible solution: the film “Ghostbusters”.
This film may date back to 1984, but it certainly has not aged (unlike me), and it is able to teach us the fundamentals of innovation in less than 105 minutes! Unbelievable isn’t it?
So here are the 5 commandments on innovation that I learnt whilst watching “Ghostbusters”!
When the film’s heroes decide to become ghost “busters”, everyone thought they were crazy. In spite of this, they decide to persevere with the idea and take advantage of every available opportunity. Finally, their idea, which from the outset seemed wacky, starts to bring them their first clients, allowing them to achieve the impossible: to create a new market.
This process perfectly illustrates the innovation life cycle which can be summarized in three phases. It begins by being incomprehensible to outsiders. With perseverance, the innovation makes headway by becoming coherent. However, at that moment, it is apparent to all that it is impossible to achieve. But it is thanks to the persistence and talent of its founders that it becomes part of our everyday life, making it thus ordinary.
The moral of this tale: if you decide to immerse yourself in innovation, prepare yourself psychologically as people will think you’re crazy…at least in the beginning.
When we look more closely, each member of the Ghostbusters’ team brings a unique set of skills to the group, which, put together, create a highly functional and efficient team. Peter is the ideal salesman, he is very chatty and can convince anyone of anything. Egon is the brain who designs all the « ghostbusting » equipment. Ray is the sensitive one who brings the “human” or even “naïve” touch.
It is important to understand that innovation is a magic formula which draws its energy from diversity and synergy. The more your team is perfectly suited and has different points of views, the more your innovation will be disruptive and achievable.
Even though some members of the team were already working on certain scientific “ghostbusting” concepts, it is only after their dismissal from university and by committing themselves 100% to their idea that they managed to bring the concept to fruition in a viable way. Peter sums this up perfectly with the sentence: "Call it fate, call it luck, Karma, whatever. I think we were destined to get kicked out of this dump for a reason”.
In innovation, having the idea is the easiest part of the process. And to be honest with you, there are thousands of people around the world who have the same idea. So why aren’t there more billionaire entrepreneurs each year? Quite simply because the most important factor is not the idea itself but the quality and the swift implementation of the idea. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of doing anything by halves. Give your heart and soul to your innovation from the start.
Do the ghostbusters start by shouting from the rooftops that they are going to save the world? Not at all. Their first TV commercial targets people who feel misunderstood by the people in their lives and by promising them one thing: “we are willing to believe you”. They therefore simply start with a niche market (the misunderstood) to ultimately save the world.
In innovation, this can be summed up in one simple sentence: "Think global, act local". Even if your ambition is to save the world, start by identifying a niche marketwith needs and wants still unmet then use this niche to learn and grow. Gradually, you will change the world ;o)
Contrary to what one might think, the film’s villain “Gozer” is not the most dangerous character for the Ghostbusters. In fact, the most dangerous character for the team is Walter Peck, member of the Clean Environment Commission (CEC). Walter is the ultimate symbol of resistance to change: frightened by what he does not understand, protecting his interests and willing to stop anything that does not fit his narrow view of the world. After several attempts, he finally proves his case by getting the whole team arrested and thrown in jail with a hefty fine. This will put the Ghostbusters under a great strain, just when things started to look up.
Well, you can expect to tackle the same type of situation in innovation. When you decide to develop an idea you will have to face public opinion and criticism. Between those who have the same idea, those who are reluctant to change and those whose day-to-day routine will be disrupted, you will need to fight until your idea is accepted. These last few years are a perfect example of this fear of change: Napster, Uber, Airbnb, etc.
What is quite funny is that I often see the best lessons learnt in the most unexpected ways. And for me, Ghostbusters features as one of these surprising revelations. It is only in my thirties that I realized that an 80’s comedy, featuring scientists who chase ghosts, could teach me the fundamentals of innovation, team spirit and overcoming obstacles. It is for this reason that, as an innovator, it is important to always be aware of the world around you and to find inspiration everywhere you go. Therefore, next time you want to explain the fundamentals of innovation, who you gonna call?
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