(First published on LinkedIn)
Who knew that last year’s summer blockbuster Jurassic World could be an allegory for business ethics?
If you haven’t seen it, I’m not spoiling anything by saying that it’s about a theme park whose main attractions are dinosaurs engineered in a lab. Predictably, things run amok and important lessons are learned.
In the movie, in an attempt to satisfy shareholders amid dwindling attendance, the CEO tasks his chief scientist to create something that would wow visitors. When he delivers, quite disastrously, the CEO is dismayed by the methods he used.
In a crucial scene, the CEO confronts the scientist on creating the creature that ends up on a killing spree and threatens the lives of 20,000+ visitors:
CEO: Who authorized you to do this?
Scientist: You did. “Bigger”, “Scarier”… “Cooler” I believe is the word that you used in your memo… You cannot have an animal with exaggerated predator features without the corresponding behavioral traits.
CEO: What you’re doing here… What you have done… The Board will shut down this park, seize your work, everything you’ve built…
Scientist: All of this exists because of me. If I don’t innovate, somebody else will.
CEO: You are to cease all activities here immediately.
Scientist: … but we are doing what we have done from the beginning… you didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth.
CEO: I never asked for a monster!
Here are some lessons I got out of it:
- Empower employees, but don’t turn a blind eye. Management has to make sure that anything done to achieve company goals must be ethical and law-abiding.
- Beware of creating a culture that values profit above all else. Business decisions must take into account their impact on people, the community and the environment, not just the balance sheet.
- One ethical lapse could lead to the creation of a monster. One lapse, when tacitly tolerated, could lead to others to one day become a monster issue. By then there’s no turning back and no way to control it.
- When hell breaks loose, the real victims are often innocent bystanders. Innocent people the world over have lost retirement savings, been sickened by pollution, or been injured by shoddy products when business decisions prioritize profit above humanity.
So, a simple piece of business advice taken from Jurassic World: “Don’t create a monster, and don’t let anyone else do it either.”