With the premiere of 50 Shades of Grey this weekend, there’s sure to be a lot of hoopla about sadism, brutality, and mysterious CEOs with strange quirks and manipulative, controlling behaviors.

And you thought you went to the movies to escape your work life.

Surprisingly, 50 Shades has a bigger connection to the business world than anyone would have guessed. Heck, even hardware stores are preparing for an influx of a different kind of do-it-yourselfer. “Managers are asked to monitor stocks of rope, cable ties, masking tape, and duct tape,” notes one corporate memo. And that’s not all. Businesses either directly mentioned or tied to—oops—activities in the book, ranging from Audi cars to Brooks Brothers’ ties to Twinings tea, are seeing a leap in business, while other companies are releasing entire lines of 50 Shades-themed products. Even Lego has gotten into the act.

Given the movie’s close ties to the commercial world, we figured it was incumbent upon us to highlight the most valuable IT insights from the oeuvre, so you too can become enlightened.

Email. It may surprise you, or disappoint you, depending on which way you roll, but the characters in this story spend more time sending each other email than on anything more salacious. And we have to say, they miss a number of tried-and-true ways of using email effectively.

First of all, they change subject lines just about every time they send an email message. How are they ever going to be able to follow the conversation later? Second, complicated negotiations like slave contracts shouldn’t be done via email—that is just inefficient. Pick up the phone!

Entrepreneurship. Conventional wisdom dictates that entrepreneurship is time-consuming and stressful. Not so for Christian Grey. He has time to dart between Seattle and Portland, hang-glide, and “enjoy various physical pursuits,” which is how Grey characterizes his hobbies.

So what is it that Mr. Grey does, exactly? We’re never quite sure. “He started a company called, realistically, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc., which employs thousands of people engaged in the field of doing some kind of vague business things in accordance with businessy-sounding orders given by Christian over his mobile phone as he stands around in various stylish settings with his worn but stylish jeans hanging loosely off his hips looking unbelievably hot,” explains Dave Barry.

Security. Here’s a guy who is a world-famous billionaire, and is so paranoid about word of his outre’ interests getting out, that he makes the subjects of his attentions sign a non-disclosure agreement. He also gives Anastasia a Blackberry, the ne plus ultra in corporate email security—at least in 2011, when the book was published. (That said, President Barack Obama still uses one, due to its security features.)

All this makes sense. So why does he carefully sign “Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings Inc.” at the end of every email he sends to Anastasia? Seems counterintuitive for a man who is trying to keep this thing a secret and protect his business.

Training. Grey is very thoughtful about the way he onboards his latest, um, associate. “She does not own a computer nor does she know how to operate one,” Barry explains. “She has no e-mail account, and seems to be only dimly aware of how the Internet works. At one point she actually says, “Holy cow! I’m on Google!'”

Consequently, Grey sends an IT guy to Anastasia’s apartment to set up a cutting-edge (for 2011) MacBook Pro, though the guy seems somewhat crushed that she’s going to use its 1.5 TB hard drive and 32G of RAM for . . . email. And surely her reaction to this help from IT will sound familiar: “I haven’t got a clue what he’s saying, and in all honesty, I’m not interested,” she says. “Just tell me how to switch it on and off—I’ll figure out the rest.” Sigh.

Contracts. A chunk of the book is dedicated to negotiation over the slave contract that Grey wants Anastasia to sign. She pushes back and, honestly, she’s a great negotiator.

But then, after all the bargaining she does to get her way on many points, Anastasia doesn’t even sign the contract. Please, people. Don’t do this. Close the deal.

That’s it for this book, though there are two sequels. And due to the robust advance sales of movie tickets—there’s confirmation that they will be made into movies as well. Those, however, are only for true masochists.


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