Science fiction, fantasy, & horror - web design, graphic design, interactive media development by greententacles

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror - Web Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media Development by Greententacles 2019-03-22 GMT

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A Sixth Sense of Business

~ by N. E. Lilly (March 2001) ~


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M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Sixth Sense' was a summer block buster. Sure, the plot twist may have been done before, but Mr. Shyamalan did it so well that you never saw it coming. And you may read on without fear, because we haven't included any plot spoilers in this article. The story in brief goes like this:

'Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is a boy with a problem. Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a talented child psychologist who can't forgive himself for failing a former patient. When the two meet, they change each other's lives.

At school Cole is called a freak. He is an outcast, because no one understands him or his problem. Cole reminds Dr. Crowe of the former patient that he had failed and tries to make up for his earlier error by helping Cole. Only Cole doesn't seem to want his help.

Dr. Crowe is persistent and eventually befriends Cole. After an incident at a party Cole tells Dr. Crowe his secret, that he sees dead people, and it isn't until later, when Dr. Crowe hears ghostly voices on a recorded interview with his former patient, that Dr. Crowe actually believes him.

Dr. Crowe stumbles across the idea that maybe these ghosts are coming to Cole for help. So the next time that a ghost appears to Cole, he asks it if it needs help. In doing so he uncovers a murderer. By helping the ghosts Cole gains a new confidence.

In the end Cole is finally able to confide in his mother, and Dr. Crowe is able to move on with his life.'

There were several lessons to be learned in the movie that can be directly applied to your business.

You can't fix what you can't see

We all have our own ghosts, or areas of incompetence to put it most bluntly. For some people their ghosts are financial, for others their ghosts are in the area of design.

What ever your particular ghost might be, you have to find a way to see the ghost before you can fix any problems with it. If your ghosts are legal (meaning that your pretty blind when it comes to legal issues) then you go out and find a lawyer. If your ghosts are financial, then you go out and find an accountant.

This bears itself out in the sentiment that all good managers hire people who are smarter than themselves. If your particular ghost is design and you're going to hire a designer then you don't want to hire one who's design skills are worse that yours, do you? Ideally you want to hire the best designer that you can find.

This may seem obvious, but how many managers do you think are tempted to hire the least qualified candidate for the job, so that the manager looks that much better?

Get an outsider's point of view

It's a common writer's trick to have someone else look over their work - to get a fresh set of eyes to look at their writing - to identify any problems.

Dr. Crowe's problem with his estranged wife was insurmountable without the help of Cole. Dr. Crowe's problem with his wife, his inability to talk to her, was solved with a quick little insight from this boy, not because the Cole was any smarter than Dr. Crowe, but because Cole had a different point of view.

All too often we can't see the problems that are draining the life from us, when someone without nearly so much at stake can easily solve our dilemma. That is the benefit of outside consultants or even nearby friends. They may be able to see that you're about to take a misstep that you're totally unaware of.

A recent example is the soon to be released game called Undying. After DreamWorks designers had been working on the Undying title for over half a year they brought in Clive Barker for inspiration. He was eventually able to help develop the overall concept of the game.

Having a horror veteran from another industry come in to help out with the design of the game only made it a stronger title. There's even rumor that the game may make the transition to the cinema.

Treat your Curses like Blessings

As they say, 'Admitting that you have a problem is the first step in overcoming it.' When Cole admits to Dr. Crowe that he sees dead people, that moment is the major turning point in the movie. At the time Dr. Crowe is convinced that Cole is seeing hallucinations, but if Cole had never admitted the truth then his problem would never have been solved.

So what is your problem? Get right to the root of it. Avoiding the problem won't make it go away, and it definitely won't fix it. Your own particular problems are what make you and your company different from anyone else. Your 'problems' can either help or hinder you.

Does your company have a small management team? Then it's likely that your company can come to a consensus on an issue and react to it before larger companies. You can more readily implement the use of a new technology or work process and gain an advantage over a larger company. Does you company have a general lack of money? Then that forces your company to be more creative to compete. No matter what, you won't maintain the status quo.

Take a lesson from the penultimate garage-based designer turned big business: Mr. Walt Disney. When he started out he had very little money, and he was one of the smallest companies around. He got creative by being the first to add sound to animation (the animated short Steamboat Willie which premiered in 1928), a revolutionary idea at the time, and because he was a small company he didn't have to cut through a lot of bureaucratic red tape to do it.

This may sound like a 'be an optimist' mentality. It is, but if it works then who cares?

Help Others to Help Yourself

This may sound very benevolent, but both Cole and Dr. Crowe learned that by helping others you can help yourself. Cole learned that by helping the ghosts he needn't be afraid of them. Dr. Crowe learned that by helping the little boy he was able to get back in touch with his 'estranged' wife.

Dr. Crowe needed to help Cole in order to make amends for a former patient of his that he did not help. It was this earlier patient that troubled Dr. Crowe so much that he could not move on with his life.

What can you do to help others? Think of some ways that you can genuinely help people, and you'll find that you'll be able to profit by it. Are you an editor that could help an amateurish writer come into his own and refine his work? Are you a hobby shop owner that can provide kids a place to game on the weekends?

Sure that will help others, but how will that help you? Well, helping others can only generate good will in your favor. That writer that you help out might become a corner stone of your published fiction. Those kids may become regulars, and your best customers, and they may even foster a community around your store that could bring in additional customers. Think along the lines of the legendary Star Trek write-in campaign. When the original Star Trek was cancelled, its legions of fans wrote in asking that it remain on the air. The whole Star Trek franchise benefited from it. If the fans hadn't supported the series then, it wouldn't have grown into the franchise that it is now.

The Lessons Learned...

You can't fix what you can't see, Get an outsider's point of view, treat your curses like blessings, and help others all sound like things that you should keep in mind when managing you business.

However, the real lesson that I see here is that speculative fiction can be justified as something other than just pure entertainment. It can give you a clue about your business that you might not get from a marketing book and it wraps it up in an entertaining package too.


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