After a day of food and fun with our granddaughter, the undisputed center of the household at the moment (when she is in town), we settled down to watch Avatar. (Yes, I had seen it at the theater).
There are a lot of ways to look at this film. Here is one: it is the battle between Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0 (Daniel Pink’s terms). The context: the corporate profit seekers need the Navi to move away from their beautiful home, in order to turn a greater profit.
Here’s the relevant dialogue (from the script, found here):
So — who talks them into moving?
What if they won’t go?
I’m betting they will.
Killing the indigenous looks bad, but there’s one thing shareholders hate more
than bad press — and that’s a bad quarterly statement. Find me a carrot to
get them to move, or it’s going to have to be all stick. (emphasis added).
Jake is shaken by the enormity of this new responsibility.
You got three months. That’s when the dozers get there.
I’m on it.
Selfridge, the “company man,” is the one who uses the imagery of carrots and sticks. Here is his character bio from imdb:
Parker Selfridge is the “company man” on Pandora, the Chief Administrator for RDA. He’s in charge of all the mining operations on the planet and determined not the let the ‘natives’ stand in his way. He’d like to use diplomacy- largely because it looks better from a PR standpoint- but is prepared to use force if necessary.
Well, if you have seen Avatar, you know that carrots and sticks did not win the day. The Navi are fully devoted Motivation 3.0 followers, finding their motivation from within, true intrinsic motivation – motivation that leads them to the greatest of sacrifice.
So, yes, as I watched the movie I thought of the motivation insight from Daniel Pink’s DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Here is his own twitter summary of his book (in Pink’s own words, from the end of the book):
“Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”
I think it is interesting that in the midst of the story of Avatar, James Cameron reveals just how outmoded carrots and sticks are in an evolved community.
News item: Avatar is now the greatest money maker in movie history
In the last few days, I saw Avatar, and I read an intriguing article about Harrison Ford.
Avatar is now the all-time money maker for movies. (It is helped by ticket prices at least as high as $13.00 for the 3D experience). The budget for making the movie has still not been revealed, but it is now very clear that it was worth every penny. And many, many of those pennies went into the development of and use of new technology for 3D. I am no movie critic, but here is my take: the story was well-told, though clearly borrowed from other sources. But the 3D – well, it was innovation worth waiting for. It was spectacular. (The book I presented at the January First Friday Book Synopsis, Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t by Kevin Maney, started with the story of the technological innovation developed for Avatar).
The actor who could once carry an entire franchise now has yet another box office bomb in Extraordinary Measures. Richard Rushfield on the downward spiral of Ford’s career.
I have been a Harrison Ford fan (as was everybody for quite a few years), but I have noticed that his box office mojo has definitely been slipping. (Extraordinary Measures, in its opening weekend, was extraordinarily anemic at 8th place, with barely $6 million).
The Rushfield piece reflects at length on the decline of Ford’s popularity, but it boils down to this – he is a one-note actor.
As one-note as Ford’s performances were, audiences seemed never to tire of that note. Until one day, they did.
What is the business lesson? It is that the day will come that if you are still doing things the way you did them yesterday, the audience/customers will disappear. And to avoid that, you simply have to keep innovating. Innovate or fade away. Those are the choices. Cameron is quite an innovator. Ford, not so much.
Rushfield said it directly:
Business seminars could use the Ford implosion as a case study to show the need to remain agile and change with the times.
Watching “Avatar,” I felt sort of the same as when I saw “Star Wars” in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron’s film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his “Titanic” was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.
“Avatar” is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough.