There are many wonderful fictional businesses, but only the best ones can teach us some real business lessons. Continuing with our series on our favourite fictional businesses, we’re taking a look at some of the best fictional businesses from the sci-fi world.
We will look into how these companies operate, what values we can take from them – and how they can help inform real business practices. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more business insights – particularly our previous fictional businesses post on ‘Duff Beer’.
So, once you form a company with us, bear the following insights in mind – they might be fictional companies but they could impart some real life business insights. Let’s begin our rundown.
If you haven’t seen ‘Iron Man’, let me explain. Stark Industries is the company run by mega-billionaire Tony Stark, who uses the extensive technological capabilities of the business to create the famous Iron Man suit.
Stark is a bit of a big character, which is what you want from such an ‘outside the box’ thinker. But what does Stark Industries teach us about business in general?
- Leadership Is Important – Tony Stark is nothing if not a capable leader, he doesn’t lead in the sense of keeping everybody in line – he leads in a sense of being a figurehead. In the Iron Man suit he’s a lot more of a micro-manager, trying to save the world all by himself. But, as a company man – he’s much more laid back.
- Capital Helps Spur Innovation – Perhaps the most important insight we can draw from Stark Industries is that having capital makes it easier to invest in bold new ideas. Whether you’re making a leap into space travel like Tony Stark or you’re a small business owner innovating plumbing parts – money can make this process simpler.
- Looks Can Be Deceiving – Tony Stark maintains the image of a playboy, whilst actually saving the world from bad guys. In the real world, think of Costco – sometimes considered a huge faceless company, but there is a focus on values and culture as CEO Craig Jelinek recently discussed – Jelinek said that no matter how big a company business grows “you’ve got to think like a small company”.
Tony Stark shows us that the CEO of a company can sometimes have hidden depths. Recently there was a big story made out of the founder of Gravity Payments Dan Price’s decision to pay all of his staff a minimum of $70,000 a year – this clearly shows that strong leadership and financial clout is often coupled with a business mentality that is deceptively altruistic.
Cyberdyne Systems – Skynet
Well – given that it released a self-replicating robot race keen on exterminating humanity – you could say that they are an example of what not to do in business. Practical insights include:
- Greed Is Not Good – Cyberdyne Systems took an aggressive approach that made an impact to the bottom line – but at a huge cost. It’s an example of short term thinking in business, and how significant the consequences can be. Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School was quoted by finance and economics journalist Sarah Murray in the Financial Times saying “If you’re pushing short-term profitability, you’re not making investments that will be recouped by taking a longer-term view”.
- Tech Might Not Work For You – The fact that the tech solution to military defence in Terminator was so horribly misjudged teaches us that you can misjudge tech solutions in your own business. Hopefully the consequences won’t involve a machine trying to destroy humanity and provoking a human resistance, but being aware that you may have to deal with the consequences of a poorly judged tech solution – and find a workaround – is an important lesson.
- Sometimes Your Idea Will Turn Into Something Unexpected – Cyberdyne Systems teach us broadly speaking that sometimes your ideas warp into something else. It’s great to be ambitious but it’s possible that it’s not quite achievable. Don’t despair though, many companies have started out with one aim and gone onto do something else really significant – and with much more peaceful outcomes than Cyberdyne. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream started as a bagel company, Nintendo manufactured playing cards and Flickr was once a chat room for an online game.
Overall the impact of Cyberdyne Systems was so problematic that there were no reasons to really draw inspiration, but there are are some real life business lessons on what not to do. Sometimes these lessons can be very valuable indeed.
The Tyrell Corporation, responsible for creating android robots known as ‘replicants’ to work in off-world colonies in the film Blade Runner, have a very interesting insight into business. It’s a company that has very extensive reach – making star Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard jump through various hoops in search of these dangerous robots.
So, as the replicants are running wild – what can we learn about business?
- Partners May Do Their Own Checks On You – Rick Deckard does plenty of searching on Tyrell, and their replicant products, showing that people you work with can do their own research. This is very apparent with services like Company Search MadeSimple, which shows us is that it’s easy for someone to do their homework on you – so that’s an important insight of which to be aware.
- Sometimes Your Products Need Tweaking – SPOILER ALERT: When Tyrell is having his head crushed by replicant Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) you can be sure he was thinking “I never meant my products to do this”. This shows you that products or services may function differently than you expect. You will hopefully avoid having your head crushed, but there are plenty of problems you might have to tweak to get the product you want – so be aware.
- Predictive Business Intelligence Can Help – There are plenty of opportunities in the Blade Runner story for the whole thing to be avoided, which could have saved a lot of trouble but would have admittedly made for a duller film. It goes to show that analysing your business data for trends and predictions makes sense, as it gives you the ability to avoid problems before they occur.
So the Tyrell Corporation have yielded some valuable insights. There are plenty of great lessons there. Remember your partners can do their homework on you, don’t be afraid to adjust your products and make use of analytics to solve problems before they get out of hand.
This company is all about the big bucks. With the film Prometheus highlighting their biggest ambitions – taking groups of space travellers to unknown planets in search extra-terrestrial industrial riches.
In the film, there are plenty of technological and research lessons for big businesses. But there are some valuable lessons for a smaller company too.
- More Money Doesn’t Mean Less Risk – Innovation can be risky. If you’ve got a lot of capital you might think you’re a bit more protected – but you’re not. There are too many different types of risk beyond the financial, so that’s something to be aware of. The crew of Weyland Corporation’s first foray onto an alien planet can certainly attest to that.
- One Great Idea Can Spur Fast Growth – The history of the Weyland Corporation is only touched on within the film Prometheus, but their formation in 2012 was followed by 5 years of growth and technological innovation that made $100 billion. We’ve seen growth like this with tech innovators like Twitter and Instagram who have made huge gains in short periods of time.
- Reaching For The Stars Can Negatively Impact Reputation – Going off the rails with an ambitious idea is wonderful for entrepreneurs, but if it goes wrong your reputation and the validity of your idea can be diminished. Weyland Corporation know this with the fate of the crew of Prometheus – but consider real life examples like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic tragedy, which drew some criticism notably from Zoe Williams in The Guardian who said “Branson’s project tells us very little about the human condition except for its frivolity and emptiness, this consumer switch – from stuff to experiences”. It goes to show brazen ambition can have unforeseen consequences.
The Weyland Corporation is a fictional business that has not had the same impact as the rest of the companies on this list – but it has some of the more interesting business insights for real life companies.
Possibly the biggest and best known company on this list is Wayne Enterprises, which has dominated the Gotham City skyline for a long time. Bruce Wayne gives us some interesting leadership lessons as the boss of a company – as opposed to a crime fighting crusader.
Some of the things that we can learn from Wayne Enterprises and apply to real life business include:
- Don’t Dwell On The Past – Focussing on the past in business is not usually very helpful. Past failures and successes are not as important as what you are doing now. Bruce Wayne embodies this with Batman – born out of a tragedy involving his parents as a kid – but relentlessly pushing forward.
- Values Are Important – You can have a financially successful company with good values. The Wayne Foundation, a charitable institution dedicated to scientific research and supporting the arts shows that positive things can come out of aspects of your company that aren’t necessarily ‘strictly business’.
- Diversification Has No Limits – Fans of the comic books will know in great detail the extent that Wayne Enterprises has diversified. This teaches us that even if your focus is elsewhere, such as Aerospace or Biotech, you can branch out. Wayne Foods, Wayne Entertainment and Wayne Steel are just a few examples of diversification within the company.
Overall, Wayne Enterprises is probably the biggest company in our list. It’s got an intense reach and the real life business lessons are quite philosophical and broad. It’s not necessarily the practical tips that the other companies have shown us – but there are some interesting insights that can really inform the core values of a company.
Favourite Fictional Sci-Fi Businesses & Some Real Business Tips
Thats the end of the rundown on our favourite fictional sci-fi businesses, there are so many we could have chosen – but these were the ones that stood out. We’d love to hear from you, so tell us what other real business insights you can draw from these fictional companies.
Choose a package and form your company with us today – and keep in mind these practical business insights as they can really help your business grow.
Please feel free to share your own favourites too, there are so many to mention. Perhaps the Resources Development Administration from the film Avatar, or maybe Omni Consumer Products who created RoboCop. Make sure to comment and let us know.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog, which has a huge amount of really great resources available for your business.