At this time of year, we often find ourselves watching movies with children. Perhaps the weather is inclement and there’s nothing else to do, or maybe we’re desperately looking for some way to entertain them during winter breaks. But watching a kids’ movie doesn’t have to be a painful experience if you look at it from a work context.
One of the big hits of the Christmas season looks to be Moana, the most recent entry in the Walt Disney oeuvre. As you may recall, Disney merged with Pixar a couple years back, and while the two organizations are nominally separate, the Pixar way of looking at the world has obviously informed the Disney half of the organization.
The basic plot is this (spoilers ahead): Moana is the daughter of the chief (not a princess) of a generic Polynesian island, and due to problems with the food crops, needs to track down the demigod Maui—a sort of Prometheus/Loki mashup–to put back a jewel he’d taken a number of years before. In the process she rediscovers her people’s seafaring heritage.
That’s really all there is to it, but since this is Disney, there are songs (by no less than Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame), gorgeous animation, and, sadly, some criticisms of cultural appropriation, though the organization went to some effort to draw upon traditional Maui legends and cast entirely Polynesians as the primary voice actors.
So we’re not talking the Smurfs here. (Though to be warned, you will probably have to sit through a trailer of a reboot of the blue franchise.)
That said, Moana offers a number of deeper insights that are relevant to the IT professional.
Don’t throw out the technology—examine your process. Moana, who longs to explore the oceans, is warned away by her father, saying that exploring “beyond the reef” is dangerous. As it turns out, her dad went out beyond the reef in his time, which resulted in the death of a loved one. Instead of looking for ways to make ocean travel safer—improve the boats or invent life jackets?—her father’s people take all the oceangoing vessels and hide them in a cavern. Thereafter, they all use shabby boats that really are unsafe.
Concerned about a technology that’s too powerful? Don’t throw it away and limit the innovation of your staff. Find ways to put sidebars on the technology to make it safer. It’s okay to go beyond the reef.
Look at the technology in your caverns. By the time of the movie, many people had forgotten the superior boats in the caverns and were resigned to using the junky boats, never realizing there was a better alternative. Most offices have the same sort of issue: They bought great technology and then never got around to implementing it properly, and it’s moldering in a closet somewhere.
Do you have ocean-going vessels in your office caverns that you’ve never properly leveraged? Drag it out and give it a shot. And while you’re at it, if you upgrade your technology, get rid of the old—don’t keep it around “just in case.” Hopefully Moana’s people didn’t save all the second-rate boats in the cavern instead.
Mentoring is important. It wouldn’t be a modern-day Disney movie without a wise elder, and Moana has two. First, there’s Moana’s grandmother, a when-I-am-an-old-woman-I-shall-wear-purple hippie type who dances on the beach and talks about being reincarnated as a manta ray, but in the process also inspires Moana to follow her vision. Second, there’s Maui himself, who teaches Moana the nitty-gritty of the sailing and wayfaring technologies that her people have largely forgotten. (And in a pleasant twist, he actually teaches her rather than just doing it for her.) And in a sense, Moana herself acts as a mentor to Maui and helps him regain his self-confidence. Do you have programs where senior staff members can pass on their collective wisdom to younger staff—whether it’s technical details or more visionary aspects? Or do older staff members get shuffled into increasingly irrelevant jobs until they get the hint and retire? Where would Moana’s people be if Maui hadn’t shown up to re-teach them the seafaring technologies they’d forgotten?
Wayfaring is critical. True, knowing how to sail is important, and Moana has all the requisite scenes of inexperienced sailors falling overboard, tipping over the boat, and almost getting nailed by the boom due to a sudden wind shift. But at least as much attention is paid to wayfaring, or figuring out where you’re supposed to go. As it turns out, Polynesians were actually really good at it, using only the stars and currents (and sometimes sticks, though Moana doesn’t mention them) to take them across the ocean ranging from New Zealand to South America.
Ocean-going vessels are great, but technology will only get you so far if you don’t know where you’re going with it. As we’ve mentioned before, don’t use technology for the sake of technology—use technology as a means of getting you where you want to go.
And P.S.: Make sure you stay after the credits.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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