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The Movie In Your Head Stinks

May 7, 2019

I love it when a show ends or a movie series wraps and suddenly everyone is a master director, producer, and writer here to tell us how it was really pretty terrible and you know they could do better if they had the chance.

Some friends and I call this “the imaginary movie in your head”, which is a deeply personal and customized idea of how to do something “right” if only those jerks actually doing it would listen. When something large, popular, or significant ends? We get to hear a lot from people motivated by these phantom productions of id and dreamstuff.

– Jack Norris Writer, Game Designer

A movie came out recently that was the conclusion of a long line of movies. My friend Jack intentionally avoided mentioning the film. I think it was because his comment isn’t really about any particularly movie. It could be about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, or Twilight or Firefly.

His point is that after the fact, the critics are quick to point out the apparent flaws. The plot points that weren’t to their liking. “That actress should want to play that role they refused, that actor should be 20 years younger, etc…” as Jack noted.

I’ve seen similar attitudes in business. No one knows better how to run a business than those who are not actually in charge of running it. I’ve worked for some large companies, Microsoft, WordPerfect. My current employer has 130,000 employees around the world.

Large companies typically have well defined processes and policies. Rules and regulations.

Ever heard of a crazy law? You know, like bear wrestling matches are prohibited in Alabama. Wire cutters cannot be carried in your pocket in Texas. Or, Utah’s law that alcohol may not be sold during an emergency.

The thing about every one of those crazy laws, is that it was passed because someone, somewhere did the things that are now outlawed. Every law is like that. Typically they come about because someone somewhere did something stupid, like used a hairdryer while bathing, and now there’s a law.

The same goes for rules in a company. Most of the processes and procedures are in place because the company at one point or another needed them. That doesn’t stop employees from deciding that this policy or that process should be changed.

Jack understands this about movies too.

“This isn’t to say the media we get is perfect. . .”

The same is true in business. I remember two examples from when I worked at WordPerfect. The first was way back when software was installed by floppy disk. (Those are large versions of the SAVE icon. And worked kind of like thumb drives.)

WordPerfect sent out a lot of floppy disks. Thousands per week. It was the only way to send out software patches. Their postage costs were huge. One day a guy working in the shipping department figured out how to save the company a lot of money on shipping. “A lot” as in $25,000 per month. This was in the early 1990’s.

The guy told his supervisor how the company could save over a quarter million dollars per year. In appreciation the company gave him gift certificates for dinner a nice restaurant. Actually, the company didn’t have to do anything. Should they have done more? I think so. Their response made people less inclined to come up with money saving ideas.

But, when people complained, I told them that “When you have your own company, you can run it anyway you want.”

The second example, was a policy change that the company made saying employees could only take three sick days to care for relatives. After that, they had to take time without pay. It seemed like a reasonable, if somewhat harsh policy on the surface. It was certainly within the company’s rights to make such a policy. The fact that it was a horrible policy didn’t matter.

And it was a terrible policy. It turned honest employees into dishonest employees. We were a call center that started taking calls at 6:00AM. And we had lots of young families. If a young mother gets up at 5:00AM and finds her toddler throwing up, who is she going to call assuming she’s already used her three days? No one. She’s going to call in and claim to be sick, thereby taking care of her child, but also breaking company policy.

Someone, who has been anonymous all these years and will remain so, sent a letter to the board of directors and the VP over HR explaining that exact scenario.

The company didn’t have to change their policy. And when that anonymous writer starts his (or her) own company someday he (or she) can make whatever policy they want.

In this case, the company opted to change their policy.

But, the fact is, despite these examples, most suggestions that people offer are impractical. I once drove a paper route. We barely made enough to cover gas. The paper should increase our pay, right? Except for the fact that the papers were in the process of dying off from the online news sites. There was no way the paper was going to boost our pay. My idea worked great for me. Not so well for the company.

The same thing is true in movies. Again from my friend Jack,

The imaginary movie in your head actually sucks in some fundamental way for anyone who isn’t you or very much like you. Sometimes it flat out ignores reality in favor of what “should” happen. Other times it just, untethered by actual needs to presented narrative and production, floats around in little pieces of scenes and plots that make for great tweets or social media posts, but perhaps not good TV/film.

So, when you start your own business, or make your own movie, or write your own novel, feel free to make your own rules and create your own plots. Until then it’s probably best to just keep the movie in your head.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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