Published on: May 8, 2015
One of the my great pleasures this week was to spend time with the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), which met at Campbell Soup headquarters for a networking event which included me giving a presentation based on our book, "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies."
The highlight for me, however, was the chance I had to do on onstage interview with Maggie Wilderotter, the executive chairman of Frontier Communications and a woman with a long and distinguished resume as a corporate executive. (She also happens to be the sister of Denise Morrison, Campbell's CEO.)
Wilderotter is a remarkable woman, and one of the things we had a chance to chat about was the notion that while conventional wisdom suggests that women have made great strides in the workplace, there also is evidence that things have not come as far as one might think. There is NEW research suggesting that in the retail/CPG space, the percentage of women executives has not grown significantly, and we agreed that the controversy about Bud Light's ill-conceived label (describing the it as "the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night," demonstrating a tone-deafness about rape concerns) reflects a broader and sometimes pervasive mentality. Wilderotter emphasized that while it is important for companies to invest in women employees, it also is critical for women to do the hard work and networking necessary to position themselves for advancement and positions of growing responsibility.
One of the real surprises of the evening was finding out that Wilderotter is a movie fan, and not only did she have a favorite movie with a business lesson, but a story to go with it.
The movie, she said is Secretariat
and she told a story about how, in 2011, she wrote an email to every employee at Frontier. It was her birthday, she said, and she was on an airplane and had just watched that 2010 movie and was prompted to talk about how the movie addressed issues of focus and commitment, of coming back from disappointments and reversals, and how in business, people are running a kind of long race ... and that all the pieces need to work together if success is to be achieved.
Wilderotter had saved the email and read the email to the audience, telling them that Frontier's employees responded to the metaphor - she got 11,000 responses.
Wow. A great business lesson from the movies.
The best business lesson from Avengers: Age of Ultron
, I think, is that the folks at Marvel really know how to make these kinds of movies. They're big and noisy, but they aren't stupid and they also offer considerable pleasures. At its core, Ultron
is the Frankenstein story revised for a modern audience - a scientist decides to create a kind of new life form, but his best intentions go awry as the creation decides to obliterate the planet.
The business lesson is one we've talked about before: just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. But there's also another one: when you make a mistake, take responsibility, and fix it. You cannot and should not run away from it.
Part of what makes all this work is the knowing and wry writing and direction by the great Joss Whedon, and committed performances by the likes of Robert Downey Jr. (as Tony Stark/Iron-Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and James Spader (Ultron).
One of the fun things about this movie is that Whedon toys with our expectations, fulfilling them in some cases and challenging them in others. While this is by no means my favorite genre, I have to admit that I was happy to see it on the opening weekend, in 3D and IMAX ... and I'll be back when the next Marvel movie comes out.
Because these guys really know how to make these movies.
That's it for this week. have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.