With great interest I read the article “Marvel’s Blockbuster Maschine” of Harvard Business Review (2019/07). Being impressed as a Marvel-Fan I found the insights shared not only applicable for organization but also for each individual. Inspired by this article I also drew a few graphics to accompany my blog post.
1st-Principle: Select for Experience Inexperience
Marvel invited directors such as Jon Favreau (Iron Man, 2008), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Rainarok, 2019), who brought expertise from other domains, which Marvel does NOT have, to join the film production.
One of the (chemical) effects was, in my opinion, TRUST. The inexperience have to trust Marvel about their expertise on special effects, making blockbusters, characterising a role according to the original comics and so on.
On the other hand Marvel has to trust the inexperience about the unique skills, such as making funny dialogues or telling stories in an unusual way.
TRUST is a scarce resource that could not be learned from business schools. It is almost a gift from birth/growth (one can learn from his own family), which will be gifted from one person to the next (i.e. one person trust another person unconditionally, this kind of unconditional trust will multiplied in a healthy environment). It is free of charge but priceless.
Once TRUST is established, you can expect a great teamwork and tremendous performance as a result.
2nd-Principle: Leverage a Stable Core
“To balance the new talent, voices, and ideas it brings into each movie, Marvel holds on to a small percentage of people from one to the next. The stability they provide allows Marvel to build continuity across products and create an attractive community for fresh talent.“
It is essential to keep a company’s core values. Take Apple for example. As far as I can understand, Steve Jobs was an extreme perfectionist and valued userfriendliness also to an extreme. Therefore Apple kept customers loyal not by the most cutting-edge technology but a closed ecosystem and great user experience.
Company’s DNA works with the core values together but also influences the further development in the future. Two companies can fuse for a certain period under circumstance but will divorce in the long-run, if their DNAs do not match with each other. For example Daimler and Chrysler, Microsoft and Nokia. Either I can’t imagine Facebook would work along well with ByteDance because they have different company DNAs from birth on.
Being a Scrum Master I love applying the Scrum Framework not because it is “lightweight, easy to understand and difficult to master“, but because it allows you to integrate other elements, depends on what kind of project you are coaching. Even though I might be called an “unpure” Scrum Master at the end.
Having a Stable Core, which at the first glance might sound contrary to innovation (we think about new stuffs, break and build), but it is extremely important to manage innovation. It defines how far a company can run and how innovative it could be.
3rd-Principle: Keep Challenging the Formula
“Marvel Studios’ directors all speak about a willingness to let go of the winning ingredients in prior MCU movies … Not only do audiences appear to tolerate Marvel’s constant experimentation, but it has become a critical element of the MCU experience: Fans go to the next film looking for something different.”
Everyone knows that there is no forever-correct solution whatever the context is. A formula might be successful for once or twice, but it will never work forever. Change a reliable formula means a challenge to one’s own success in the past. It might cause a big failure and cost very much.
We know innovation management is among others the management of change. Innovation is about “break and build”, as I posted in my previous blog.
The remarkable word here is “KEEP“. No matter how successful the past has been.
This is the readiness for risk-taking, for experimenting, and the mindset of “It’s (always) Day one”.
4th-Principle: Cultivate Customer Curiosity
Since 2008, if you are visiting cinema for a Marvel movie, you will notice a bunch of people staying in their seats until the very end until the lights being darkened. These are curious hard-core Marvel-Fans waiting for the movie’s Easter egg (sometimes more than one!).
The first of these was shown at the end of Iron Man, where S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, was introduced, suggesting that Iron Man may be only part of a larger universe.
The latest one „End Game“, no special scene found after the credits but with the sound of a hammer hitting metals, which reminds people about the scene from the first Iron man in 2008, as Tony was building the first prototype of Iron man suit while being captured in the cave.
Such kind of cultivation in customers’ curiosity can be found by Apple and Steve Jobs’ “One More Thing”-speeches. People expect one more thing after the main show. Steve Jobs would come back to the stage to announce one special new stuff from the company. After Tim Cook took over the position as CEO, this tradition seemed to have lost its place. Until the “One More Thing“-Event on 10th November 2020 revealing the introduction of M1-chip.
In the original HBR-article it stated very clearly that, all these four principles could only be successful if applied properly as one.
During my writing I found out that these four principles can also be applied by individuals: Learn how TRUST people, allow people from their own domains to unfold their potential; keep your own Stable CORE, no matter it is about your core vision, value, competence. Start with WHY (Simon Sinek); keep challenging the formula of your success in the past, have courage to take risk and try out something new, bear the “It’s Day One”-mindset; engage with others and gain inspiration from wherever you can, always be OPEN and CURIOUS and be ready to surprise others with something different.
In this way, it is not only about the management of innovation, but also about the innovative management of yourself/ourselves.
One More Thing
I recorded the process of my drawing with Procreate. The first time I pushed myself to finish such a drawing in two evenings as the kids were asleep.
(First published in November 2020)