image courtesy of Warner Bros.

This post is about movies, but it isn’t. Just bear with me.

What movies can teach us about mass market products vs. game-changers.

Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove, 2010, Reservoir Dogs, Memento, Pulp Fiction, Boondock Saints, The Machinist, Kill Bill, Fight Club, 300, Eyes Wide Shut, Moon, and now Sucker Punch.

What do these movies have in common? I’ll tell you: People either love them or hate them. Though some of them achieved mainstream status (in some cases years after their initial run at the box office), many failed to find as broad an audience when they first released. This, compared to sure-fire blockbuster movies like Transformers, Spiderman 2, Shrek 3, Terminator 4, or Fast 5 (the fifth installment of the Fast & the Furious franchise) which have come to be the new model of success for Hollywood: Franchises safely bring in the numbers, even if they often turn once original ideas into hollow shells of creeping mediocrity.

The truth though, and the numbers don’t lie, is that “simple” is safe. Franchises work.

Line up the remakes, sequels and mashups. They mean box office gold.

How many Marvel and DC comic book superheroes are headlining movie studio franchises these days? Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Thor, Captain America, The X-Men and Wolverine, Jonah Hex, Ironman, Hulk, Green lantern, Daredevil, The Losers… The list keeps growing. Transformers and G.I. Joe didn’t escape the great 21st century rehash of pop culture childhood icons. Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch, The A-Team, Mission Impossible, Green Hornet, and scores of other popular “classic” TV series are being given the same red carpet treatment in Hollywood, and for obvious reasons: Familiar titles sell. Ask anyone associated with the Harry Potter universe. Or Shrek. Or Star Wars. Or Toy Story. In fact ask any movie producer today how much easier it is to get your sequel funded, versus getting a yet unproven original idea funded.

The reality of most businesses is that money talks. Return on investment, for better and for worst, usually trumps creative or UX considerations when it comes to funding a project. There is an accepted success model in every industry – something many of us who try to push organizations beyond their comfort zones and break through stagnation refer to as the status-quo. That ROI should be a key factor (and often the central factor) in business funding decisions isn’t the problem. The problem is an often blind belief in “the safe bet.” The accepted model. The brainless PG13 sequel to the blockbuster or the formulaic movie adaptation of the comic book, complete with merchandising deals. This at the expense of relevance and long term survival. (Ergo: Long term profitability.)

Using the movie industry as a platform, we can make the case that neither studios, directors nor actors can be successful if they focus solely on creating game-changing films or solely on contributing to endless tepid franchise vehicles. Success in the film industry (as with every other industry) comes from being able to balance both. Too much of the same thing pigeon-holes you as either a corporate sellout or a fringe indie eccentric.  If you are Daniel Craig, you can get away with filming Bond film after Bond film, only if you also regularly work on projects like Layer Cake and Flashbacks of a Fool. If you are Johnny Depp, you can’t build a career on The Libertine, From Hell, and Chocolat without also signing up for Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Steve Jobs could have decided to stick to his franchise: Computers and software. Instead, he gambled on iPod, iPhone and iPad, and it paid off. JJ Abrams could have stuck to television, but he didn’t. The result: Almost cult-like excitement for every new big screen project he produces. (Super 8 comes out soon.) Steven Pressfield, in deciding to follow The Legend of Bagger Vance (a book about golf) with Gates of Fire, a historical epic about Spartans at Thermopylae, went against the grain, against the accepted model of success in the publishing world: He jumped categories. The gamble paid off, but at the time, industry professionals cautioned him against the move – which they saw as… ill advised.

The lesson here is that success isn’t just a question of repetition. Success is a process of opportunity creation through experimentation. Before you can have a franchise, you have to give yourself the chance to either buy or create a basis for that franchise. Buying it is expensive and limiting. Creating it is riskier, but the payoffs are immeasurable.

image courtesy of Dreamworks

Planting the seeds of mainstream success: Investing in success incubators.

There is nothing wrong with mainstream success, whether it is in the world of movies, TV shows, books, music, games, cars, clothes or electronics. Not every movie needs to change our souls or blow our socks off. Even dumb sequels with mildly entertaining jokes have their place, especially given their role in the cycle of profitability – which makes bolder experimental projects possible: Big successes mean big profits, big profits fuel big budgets, and big budgets often allow for experimental projects and products to be funded.

Experimental projects are, to put it simply, talent and technology labs. More to the point, they are success incubators. As such, they don’t usually exist on the same plane as deliberate blockbuster efforts, nor should they be expected to. Let’s not forget that before Shrek became a franchise, it too was an experimental concept. An original idea. A gamble.

Even within the world of commercial success, different types of products can yield wildly different types of results. Movies with niche audiences also have their place, not only as talent incubators but as gateway products for narrow (and deep) market bandwidths more interested in quality and nuance than quantity and noise. Tom Ford’s A Single Man was an outstanding film (especially for a first time director) but it could not be expected to experience the same kind of success (sales volume) as Sex And The City, for example, or even Ironman 2.

Yet judging by the sudden appearance of tightly tailored suits and Michael Caine-like glasses on the red carpet following the release of the movie, it not only impressed its audience but even impacted the way men began to dress and accessorize after seeing it. Compare Colin Firth’s look in the movie with Sam Worthington’s choice of eyewear at the Oscars just a few months later, where Ford’s movie was nominated for several Academy Awards.

image courtesy of The Weinstein Co.
image courtesy of Google

Uncanny, isn’t it? Sometimes, the impact of a movie or product – its value to the company taking a financial risk to create it – transcends the cash register. As a movie producer or a CEO, you sometimes have to see beyond the immediacy of sales. You have to take a step back and not only see the entire field, but make sure you allow yourself to see the bigger field.

Yet the low hanging fruit usually wins: Pitch the next Batman sequel against an completely original script which has no basis in popular literature or existing franchises, and the outcome of box office sales is pretty much a foregone conclusion: The familiar blockbuster franchise will almost always win. Hollywood producers know this. Distribution companies know it too. And so do movie theater operators.

Historically speaking, Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg and Chris Nolan come to the table with a much stronger sales pitch than, say, David Fincher, Zack Snyder and even Quentin Tarantino, which is why the former’s movies typically find their way to the most coveted summer release dates, while the latters’ films often see themselves released in the fall, winter and spring rather than just in time for 4th of July weekend. I won’t even get into the difference in same theater screen percentages between a Michael Bay release and a David Fincher release.

Art films and so-called “foreign films” (like The King’s Speech) notwithstanding, there is a world of difference between franchise-driven blockbusters and courageous gambles on “concept” movies that aim to provide a certain portion of the movie-going populace with something more original than the usual fare. Directors like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Copolla, Stanley Kubrick, and even Luc Besson (back when he still made good movies) have given us cult classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, ET, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Terminator, Avatar, The Fifth Element, Psycho, North By Northwest, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Nikita.

It is worth mentioning that Besson’s Nikita, which inspired an American remake and two separate TV series, still churns out revenue two decades after reinventing a genre on the big screen. The technical aesthetic of Kubrick’s 2001 still influences set design for sci-fi movies to this day, and will probably continue to do so for decades to come. Like most of Spielberg’s work, many of Cameron’s movies were enormous box office hits in spite of the fact that they were not extensions of existing franchises. Tarantino, for his part, has built his entire career on making completely original films… even though each set piece is an homage to not particularly original motifs deeply rooted into our pop culture consciousness. Before these guys became the big names of mainstream cinema, they were revolutionary film makers. Rule breakers. Rebels. They were the wild cards of their respective studios.

image courtesy of Miramax

If mainstream success grows out of cult projects, why does funding rarely fund success incubators?

When Tim Burton Chris Nolan and David Fincher aren’t taking the reins of sure studio bets like Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, Batman or an Alien sequel, they give us completely original movies like Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks, Memento, The Prestige, Seven, and Fight Club. Copolla, Kubrick, Besson, Hitchcock and Spielberg are still, to this day, some of the most influential movie directors of all time, and some of their most celebrated movies were not necessarily their biggest box office successes. Burton, Nolan, Fincher and Tarantino are among the next batch of directors future generations of movie-makers will spend endless hours studying and emulating. What is important to note is that they are not influential because they have huge box office successes under their belts. That came later. They are influential because they either reinvented genres or created entirely new narratives. Their true contribution to the world of movies isn’t sales numbers. It is originality. They provide for movie audiences the cinematic equivalent of what Apple’s Steve Jobs provides technology enthusiasts and Zappo’s Tony Hsieh provides shoe shopping enthusiasts (and the online shopping model, for that matter). This is where the catalyst of mainstream success lives: Not in scale and breadth first, but rather the exact opposite: In a chronic devotion to core fans, core users, core customers. Focusing on narrow but deep bandwidths is where lasting mass market success truly begins.

The byproduct of truly original ideas translated into a valuable product – like a movie, a gadget or a UI – is a cult following: A core of ardent fans who absolutely love it, sometimes in spite of mainstream scorn. In some cases, that cult following scales (as it has with Apple) and sometimes, it doesn’t. Nevertheless, the power of the cult classic is not something to be underestimated. Out of cults grow communities, then movements, and these can become the building blocks for broad mainstream success further down the road. Before Apple was the biggest technology in the world, it was the proverbial underdog. The David to Microsoft’s Goliath.

Don’t underestimate the importance of funding and fostering talent and success incubators. Pixar, Lucas Film, Imagine Entertaiment, Microsoft, EA Games and Apple get it. There’s a key success lesson in this. Remember what we said earlier about franchises and commercial success: You can either buy into it or create (incubate) it.

Buying into success should not be your first choice.

Most companies, by the way, neither fund nor actively pursue talent and success incubators. Look around. There is a reason why so few companies produce win after win.

image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The tax for being first is often scorn, criticism and hostility: Pioneers shouldn’t expect a mainstream praise… yet.

When David Fincher’s big screen adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club first hit theaters, it was destroyed by critics. They tore it to shreds. If you go to RottenTomatoes.com and look at ratings and comments now, you will see a very positive 81% on the tomatometer and a 95% overall approval rate by viewers. Back in 2000, when the movie opened across the US, the picture wasn’t so bright. At the time, Fight Club had one of the lowest tomatometer scores I had seen on the movie review site. People called it mindless and needlessly violent. Most of the reviews looked like this:

“An unhinged mess of a movie, with potentially dangerous ideas handled in a winking, cynical manner.” – Nitrate Online

“David Fincher’s dumb and brutal shock show of a movie floats the winky, idiotic premise that a modern-day onslaught of girly pop-cultural destinations (including but not limited to IKEA, support groups, and the whole Starbucks-Gap-khakis brand-name axis) has resulted in a generation of spongy young men unable to express themselves as fully erect males.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Bloody mess of a guy film loses its battle to have any real meaning.” – Detroit News

“When you see good actors in a project like this, you wonder if they signed up as an alternative to canyoneering.” – Roger Ebert / At the Movies

You get the idea. It got killed. Was it because Fight Club was a bad movie? Was it because the book it was based on was bad? Neither. And more than a decade later, now that fans have had time to find the film and make it their own, its early mainstream rejection seems ridiculous and outdated. It just wasn’t mainstream enough when it was first released, nor was it intended to be.

The film, like the book, were never meant to appeal to the millions of fans of Friends and Seinfeld looking for a light family-friendly comedy to take their kids to on a Friday night. It aimed for the exact opposite: Fight Club‘s target audience was deep, not broad, just like films like A Single Man, Black Swan, Memento, Pulp Fiction, Watchmen and Edward Scissorhands. Sometimes, movie makers turn to projects they know will appeal only to fans of a genre or style, a narrow bandwidth of potential core fans, at the expense of huge bankrolls and mass appeal. If they didn’t, all we would end up with is derivative “content” packaged as yet another sequel to an offshoot of a popular series remake. When does a copy of a copy of a copy finally lose its appeal? (I am not just talking about movies.) How many Rocky, Rambo, Shrek, Spiderman or Kung-Fu Panda sequels do we really need to put ourselves through before brain cells actually start shriveling up like raisins?

image courtesy of Dreamworks

If originality presents the biggest risk for the cash register, it also presents the only hope for evolution of any medium or industry. Risk aversion is a short-term investment philosophy. Risk aversion favors remakes of Clash of the Titans over the pursuit of technical achievements like Avatar. It favors CSI: and NCIS: (insert random city here) over shows like Arrested Development and American Gothic. It favors gray boxes still running Windows XP behind agrarian firewalls over a fully liberated and mobile workforce equipped with dynamic, collaborative social media ecosystems and iPads.

It isn’t enough to understand that risk aversion supports cultures of stagnation. In order to be able to do something about it, you also have to understand that expecting every project to be a blockbuster success creates and supports cultures of risk aversion.

Organizations and cultures that don’t take the time to not only fund and foster but also reward talent incubators are doomed to fall into vicious cycles of “same as” or “also in” mediocrity.

Remember what we established earlier in the post: Establishing a balance between cult and mainstream is crucial to long term success. Too much focus on one or the other, and the equation fails: Your product either becomes too “indie” to scale and succeed, or too generic, and so it ends up becoming commoditized and largely irrelevant.

In order for organizations to build long term engines of success, they must not only treat talent and success incubation projects with as much respect and interest as they do their mass market wins, they must also reward each based on realistic and appropriate expectations. An Avatar sequel may very well gross $1B before it is all said and done. An indie film about an injured athlete trying to put his life back together most likely won’t. Sliding scales are important when calibrating budgets, expectations and rewards along the broad spectrum of what qualifies as “success.”

image courtesy of Warner Bros.

The danger of judging cult and experimental projects as if they were mass appeal products.

When I first saw trailers for Sack Snyder’s latest CGI opus Sucker Punch, here is what I saw: A cult movie. The imagery and stylized visuals were clearly an homage to specific genres in popular culture, namely Japanese animé, steampunk, dieselpunk, heroic fantasy, comic books and video games. Take a look:

What I didn’t see was a family-friendly summer blockbuster. Twenty seconds into that trailer, you know this isn’t going to be Finding Nemo 2 or National Treasure 3. Sucker Punch wasn’t made for the Dancing With The Stars demo. It is, first and foremost, a visual extravaganza, an overflowing dish of eye candy, which is something Zack Snyder is known for. Ever since 300, his carefully manicured comic book aesthetic has become his trademark. Love them or hate them, Snyder’s films are beautiful to watch. The attention to detail he brings into every set, every costume, ever frame and every cut is impressive in its own right, even if his movies aren’t your cup of tea.  Here, Snyder also rewards his fans with an impressive soundtrack featuring  covers of “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)”, “Where is my Mind”, “Love is the Drug”, “Asleep” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” though Bjork’s “Army of Me” and Emiliana Torrini’s “White Rabbit” are beautifully woven into the film.

For the cinematic experience alone, movie-goers in my demo (fans of the steampunk genre, comic book aesthetic, hyperbolic martial arts-inspired action sequences, wonderfully curated soundtracks and Zack Snyder films), the movie struck home. Even if the plot had been weak, the characters cliché, the narrative muddled and the dialog uninspired, Sucker Punch would have still been worth the $9 to a fan of beautifully crafted movie sequences.

There are a few lesson here about the importance of taking the time to occasionally make movies (and products) for fans rather than for general audiences:

1. It is how you build your audience, your reputation, and your core community of fans.

2. It is how you build towards the greater mainstream successes of tomorrow, how you progressively change the cultural landscape, one project at a time. It is how you shape it, mold it, evolve it. It is how you turn fringe into mainstream: By being there first, before something is popular. By taking the hits, the criticism, even the financial loss, knowing that somewhere down the road, having affected the currents of popular culture, the crowds will warm to your new ideas and aesthetics, and come back in droves when they finally get it.

The lesson about shooting for safe mainstream success and broad adoption without doing the core work is that you end up with a generic product. You end up with the kinds of products that satisfy but don’t inspire, like a meal that temporarily feeds your hunger but isn’t filling enough to keep you satiated for hours, or even memorable enough to revisit years later as a noteworthy gastronomic experience.

The truth is that in trying to appeal to everyone, you rarely end up truly appealing to anyone. You become the default choice rather than the inspired or enthusiastic one.  The danger of turning this sort of dynamic into policy or standard operating procedure is that you end up creating cultures of average. Cultures of uninteresting. Cultures of differentiation through discounts rather than differentiation through outstanding, game-changing, category-changing original design.

Because of the trailer and reviews by mainstream critics, I went to see Sucker Punch this weekend with low expectations when it came to plot and script. I fully expected the movie to be an excuse for impressive visuals rather than a vehicle for them. As it turns out, I was wrong: Sucker Punch is actually a smart movie. A clever movie, even. One of the rare movies I have seen in recent years that makes extensive and unapologetic use of allegory and metaphor.  It is bold not only in its style but in its use of narrative devices, which was a pleasant surprise. To have it compared to Inception (as it has been) is actually a bit insulting. Inception was simply a plot about dreams inside of dreams, which is easy enough to process. Sucker Punch goes further: It is a movie about metaphors inside of metaphors, which asks far more intellectual flexibility from audiences. Yes, in spite of its deceptively cliché animé imagery, Sucker Punch is actually the kind of movie that makes you think. It is in every way a genuine intellectual art film disguised as a formulaic blockbuster vehicle.

Anyone who tells you that Sucker Punch is simply a movie about muddled X-Box-fueled teenage fantasies failed to push through their own misconceptions and biases, and in doing so, completely missed the cleverness of this film. Metaphor doesn’t work well in the US. The average US movie-goer doesn’t want to have to think about what a giant ninja golem represents in the world of a young girl who feels utterly helpless and vulnerable in a desperately hostile world. They just want to know that the giant is bad and that it will lose the battle against the underdog heroine because she has superpowers.

Judging a movie like Sucker Punch with the same grading scale and intellectual lens as one would an equally desaturated and Kung-Fu superhero inspired The Matrix is a lot like judging 2001: A Space Odyssey using the same grading scale and lens as a film like Star Wars. It just doesn’t work.

image courtesy of Warner Bros.

The beauty of movies like Fincher’s Fight Club and Snyder’s Sucker Punch is that everything is a metaphor. Everything means or represents something. From the dilapidated house on Paper Street to Baby Doll’s flawless makeup. Sadly, superimposing genuine intellectual sophistication with deliberately gritty and purposely exploitative visual themes is also the initial undoing of movies like this: Too clever, too artsy, too cerebral often backfires when it comes to mass appeal and sales volumes. Fight Club took years to be understood (or at least accepted) by mainstream audiences. Judging from reviews on rottentomatoes.com (21% on the tomatometer and barely a 56% approval rating) Sucker Punch may be suffering the exact same fate.

A few reviews from rottentomatoes.com:

“The movie spins out of control, until it collapses in a heap, senseless.” – The New Yorker

“”Sucker Punch” is what happens when a studio gives carte blanche to a filmmaker who has absolutely nothing original or even coherent to say.” – New York Post

“The movie is like an arrested adolescent’s Google search run amok.” – Time Magazine

The same thing happened to Fight Club eleven years ago. And just like Fight Club‘s core audience of fans came to the film’s rescue, fans of Sucker Punch (call them early adopters of this new genre) have already begun pushing back against culturally outpaced critics still struggling to adapt to a creative world heavily influenced by comic books, MTV, anime, video games, and a century of cinematic influences from Akira Kurosawa to Miloš Forman. Mainstream critics, just like mainstream audiences, haven’t yet made the transition from yesterday to tomorrow. Zack Snyder and his fans have.

These are among the fan comments I found on movie critic Leonard Maltin’s blog:

“To me it is a brilliant film.  Yeah perhaps a bit over the top in the stylized world, but that is ZS’s style. […] I found this is a movie that requires multiple times watching to really understand and follow the symbolism that is there. SPOILER ALERT – For example, the little sister has a stuffed rabbit which becomes the mechanized rabbit.  The stuffed rabbit could not protect, while the mechanized fantasy rabbit could.  These kinds of things are all over in the movie.”

“I loved the film. I loved it for it’s fresh feeling, its visual beauty, it’s crazy story line and most of all, I loved it for being DIFFERENT. I’m amazed at the amount of passion from both sides… Hate or Love. With all the remakes and revamps, I fear people are getting used to the same thing over and over only told in a different way. Sucker Punch is unique, even those that dislike it admit that. Unique? Isn’t that something? Mozart was not appreciated during his life. Orson Wells died thinking the public hated his movies… Everything is relative. I enjoy visionary directors. I enjoyed SUCKER PUNCH. I must point out that Godzilla films were never considered GREAT FILMS, honestly they were kinda inept, yet they had a kind of hidden magic to them. When Baby Doll stands against the giant Dmajin Samurai Warriors, I was reminded of that “Magic”.”

“A film has only as much meaning as the viewer watching it can give it. When my fifteen year old son came home Saturday night after watching the film with his friends all I heard him talk about was how interesting the film mixed the action/adventure genre, with the asylum genre, with the prison genre, and with the pre code backstage musical genre of the early thirties like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933; he talked to me about how the film’s structure advanced the narrative, setting up the asylum story, that eventually becomes a musical, only that the musical story doesn’t build up to singing and dancing set pieces but to big action set pieces; he told me the action set pieces payed homage to all of the great action genres: the samurai film, the war film, the medieval film, and the run-away vehicle chase films; he told me about all of the homages made to Citizen Kane in the beginning of the film, shots that mimicked Kane’s death in the protagonist’s mother’s death, and a few examples of depth staging being executed; and he discussed how the film’s end paid homage to films like One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Lord of the Rings, how in this film the Sam character is played by Abbie Cornish, and the Frodo character is played Emily Browning, the one who carries the burden that frees them all.

One of my son’s favorite parts was how the movie used creative ways in depicting death visually without all the blood and gore used in other films to maintain the PG-13 rating, like the burst of steam from the German’s gas masks whenever a German was killed. In essence the film is a prison film. My son doesn’t think it is an example of great film making, but he doesn’t deny the significance a film like this has on the landscape of contemporary film making. I think it’s too soon to describe Zak Snyder as an auteur, but he is certainly a much more interesting Hollywood director than Michael Bay, Robert Luketic, or Louis Leterrier. My point is, there’s always more to a film the explosions, effects, brawny women, and action sequences, and it is silly to think of them as just that, it only lessens the culture and the efforts of the filmmakers.”

Sucker Punch was never meant to compete against Kung-Fu Panda 2. It was never meant to bring in July 4th or Thanksgiving-size audiences. It was never meant to gross $100M in its first week. To expect it to measure up to box office safe bets is to misunderstand its place in the incubation process. A movie about a girl locked up inside an insane asylum was never going to draw big crowds, even if the desperate fantasy world she creates offers some of the most visually arresting set pieces yet seen on the big screen, and especially if every detail of these fantasies – from the way the camera cleverly travels in and out of mirrors in the brothel scenes to the choice of the bus stop’s color palette – carries a deeper meaning than the obvious. To see a project like this judged by critics against Hollywood’s typical linear three act action fares  is disappointing but not surprising. A critic’s point of view is often driven and shaped by the expectations of his audience rather than a clear understanding of the culture of the industry he aims to be a part of. The same is true of tech bloggers, automotive reviewers, and anyone who sees himself as an industry influencer. Case in point, critic Christian Toto’s reaction to the film:

“Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch should send shivers down the spines of Superman fans.”

This in reference to the fact that Snyder is slated to direct the next movie iteration of Superman. (Yes, AGAIN. Talk about franchise overload.)

In spite of the fact that Sucker Punch – like Watchmen – is a niche movie while a Superman remake is a solid blockbuster bet, critics like Toto don’t seem to understand the difference. Critics aren’t necessarily industry analysts. Instead of grading and judging different type of movies with different sets of lenses, they default to their single mainstream lens.

This type of mentality echoes that of risk-averse, mainstream-focused executives who shun experimental talent incubation projects that cater to narrow but deep niches in favor of the mainstream status-quo. It is this brand of operational myopia that forgets to invest in relationships with core fans and users, preferring instead to focus on low hanging fruit “also in” product categories: The 3D animated adventure prequel. The 20th live action comic book superhero movie. The 38th flip phone in the catalog. The 53rd black flat screen TV. The other silver sedan. The other “other” e-reader or tablet.

The inability to understand the need for a different standard of success for bold niche products in a world of same-as mass appeal products stunts the growth of companies in every industry, and jeopardizes their ability to invest in their own successful future. It is as simple as that.

image courtesy of Warner Bros.

In conclusion.

So what have we learned today?

1. Incorporate experimental projects and success incubators into your company culture. Without them, you are merely surviving.

2. Fund them well.

3. Judge them through a different lens than you do mainstream successes.

4. Learn how to scale niche successes into mainstream successes, like Apple, Virgin Airlines, Zappos and Starbucks, for starters.

5. Depth first, then breadth. Not the other way around. .

6. Go see Sucker Punchunless you aren’t into Zack Snyder movies… or visionary film-making.

Cheers,

Olivier