4 Things Avengers: Age of Ultron Can Teach Us About Startups
I was one of the lucky fans this past Friday to see Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultronin theaters. I thought it was a fun ride — a sense of fated camaraderie among the characters that I did not see in The Avengers. Despite the film’s $188 million dollar debut and behind-the-scenes politics, Marvel is a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world, very much like a startup that understands its brand so well that it continues to capture the world’s attention after every movie blockbuster.
Here are four ways this movie can teach everyone about succeeding in startups:
1. People Must Work Together
After Hydra disarmed S.H.I.E.L.D. from within in Captain America: The Winter Solider, many fans were left wondering how the Avengers would cope with the severe loss of lives and infrastructure. The opening scene proved otherwise — the Avengers successfully neutralized one of Hydra’s last strongholds in the fictional country of Sokovia as a team. Most startups are hiring technical talent like crazy nowadays, fishing out the last of the unicorns. However, companies should ultimately want to hire the best people that they can find that will work collaboratively towards their visions.
If we as human beings want to eradicate the injustices in this world, we all must work together, despite our ideological and cultural differences. If Nick Fury can recruit an indestructible green giant, a Norse god, and a Russian assassin under one roof to fight evil, then startups should develop a similar approach that will bring on board people of different skill sets and experiences.
2. Vision Should Be Every Startup’s Vision
I generally think that Robert Downey Jr. — I meant Tony Stark — had good intentions when he tried to create the perfect crime-fighting android. At the end of the day, Stark is a human being that wants a legacy that people will remember him by 10, 100, even 1,000 years down the road. Ultron was a manifestation of Stark’s troubled past, arrogance, and destructive behavior. Vision, on the other hand, represents Stark’s newly discovered humanity.
In practice, every business decision that startups make should benefit the common good. However, many startups nowadays worry more about the profit and publicity than the long-term impact their brands will have on people’s lives. I wish every entrepreneur could answer this simple question every morning before going to work:
“Is my company or service really trying to solve the tough socioeconomic issues of my time?”
If you can’t honestly answer this, I heard that Thanos is hiring down the street.
3. Risk-Taking Should Be Your Middle Name
One of my favorite moments in the film was when Hawkeye gave a prep talk to Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch after she was contemplating whether or not to change her alliances. Hawkeye’s responded with:
“Once you step outside that door, you’re an Avenger.”
When Ultron first emerged, the Avengers were very uncertain about whether they could defeat him and his menacing android army. Did they give up? Of course not.They went incognito in a safe house, created a strategic plan, and then risked their own lives together — defeating Ultron in the process. The Avengers knew the consequences if they had failed their mission.
There’s a clear consensus that most startups fail. But unlike the Avengers, startups are encouraged to fail. They are encouraged to learn from their mistakes because failure is still a badge of honor in the broader startup community. If more companies could adopt this mindset instead of conforming back to old business models, then the world would be a better place.
4. Be There For Your Team
Empathy sometimes get the red-haired step-child treatment when it comes to building great products. I was quite uncomfortable with Natasha Romanoff’s and Bruce Banner’s “romantic” relationship in the film, but that’s a whole other story. However, I did appreciate the subtle moments between these two characters, even if it looked like manipulation on Romanoff’s part.
When they touched hands for the first time — it was a symbolic gesture to teamwork and facing unimaginable odds. Romanoff understands the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on her team, especially the Hulk. We all know Banner is extremely unpredictable during his transformation, but Romanoff knew that their job to save the world came first and used her empathy to bring Banner back to reality on Earth.
Imagine what would happened if your startup hired someone like the Hulk on your team. You’re the product manager and the project deadline is fast approaching and you need all hands on deck. This team member is brilliantly smart, but has a very dark side. Imagine him or her releasing that anger one day in front of your teammates. Would you still be alive? Absolutely not.
But what would happened if you took yourself out of the equation and instead of being passive aggressive, you showed empathy? Perhaps, that person was having a very bad day, but it still isn’t an excuse to act that way professionally. But you somehow understand that person’s plight and you want to do everything in your power to be the better leader. Empathy is essential to every stage of a startup’s culture, down to the newest hire or beta product. At the end of the day, you are part of a team and that person’s contribution is paramount to your professional future and your company’s.
Startups are human engines with a common goal. If S.H.I.E.L.D. can reinvent itself after its collapse, then companies should be bold enough to roll with the punches and innovate the world as we know it.
You can find the original article and join the discussion at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-things-avengers-age-ultron-can-teach-us-startups-christina-f-brown