With holiday specials filling the TV airwaves, we’ve been thinking about which Christmas classics are most relevant to the CIO. One could make a case for Rudolph, the extraordinarily competent reindeer who doesn’t comply with societal norms, or, perhaps, the Grinch, who uses social engineering to hack an entire town’s holiday.

But according to Shane Shick in ExpertIP, the quintessential CIO Christmas special is It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’re not familiar with this movie (spoiler alert), it’s about a really nice guy named George Bailey who is having a bad day at work and wishes he’d never been born. So his guardian angel, Clarence, comes down to Earth to show George the wonderful effect he has had on the lives of others. (In doing so, Clarence is hoping to earn his angel wings).

George sees all the good things that have happened as a result of his existence and decides he wants to live after all. As it happens, the townspeople who’ve been the recipients of his kindness all these years, bail him out of his business woes. Think of it as a more complex A Christmas Carol, minus Tiny Tim, with Scrooge as a good guy.

So what does this have to do with you, the CIO?

“That basic premise has a lot more resonance for CIOs when you take a deeper look at the plotline,” writes Shick. “George doesn’t wind up contemplating this alternate universe because he’s a chronic complainer who feels unappreciated. Instead, he finds himself caught in the middle of a business failure for which he is sure he will be blamed. He thinks he might face jail time. Suicide seems like the only option until the angel reminds him of how much he has given to his family, his business and his community as a whole. He decides to man up and work things out. This scenario might be the CIO’s dilemma taken to the ultimate extreme.”

Shick started musing about this after Sylvain Chalut, CIO for the Bank of Canada, responded in an interview that his favorite movie was It’s a Wonderful Life. He didn’t go into detail about why, but Shick noted that George’s eventual optimism—which was born out when the townspeople helped him—fit in with several of Chalut’s other answers.

“I’m not suggesting Chalut is subconsciously reading these things into the movie—hopefully he is never embroiled in an IT project that makes him feel that level of despair—but there are plenty of day-to-day challenges that probably make technology leaders wonder why they keep forging on,” Shick writes. “Chalut, who describes himself in the Q&A as an optimist, demonstrates by his answers how a positive attitude can keep even the most pressured business executives motivated. Strike this kind of balance and you may, in fact, have a wonderful life. Or at least a wonderful career in IT management.”

Perhaps you have days like George’s, where you feel like you’ve given up everything to support the people who need you. Maybe you consider yourself more of a Clarence, the guardian angel who’s hoping to get a promotion by demonstrating just how badly a client or user’s proposed solution would actually work out.

Either way, if you find yourself watching It’s A Wonderful Life this holiday season, whether it’s for the first or the fiftieth time, this might give you an interesting new perspective on it.

And who knows. Next time you hear a bell ring, maybe it’ll be more than just a system alert. 

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