Every Superhero Has Something to Teach Entrepreneurs About Business Comic books often teach children serious lessons about the adult world.
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Comics, movies and TV shows have taught me a bunch of lessons. For example, growing up without much diversity in my community, I learned about racism from reading the X-Men. But the most surprising lessons relate to the business world.
A list of some lessons that can be taught by a dozen of our favorite superheroes:
Superman: Know your weakness.Superman is fully aware of his kryptonite problem and that he needs to keep his distance or he's toast. For businesses, bad decisions are kryptonite. Expanding too fast. Lacking focus. Overpricing. So many others. Understand how the decisions you make can leave you exposed, and respond appropriately.
Jessica Jones: Embrace your flaws.
Most interesting comic book characters come with cool powers but, more importantly, with flaws that humanize them. Jessica Jones is truly flawed. She was stalked, she was mind controlled. She drinks and smokes. But she protects people. And when she screws up, she'll own it. Sometimes we make mistakes in business. Only by admitting a fault can you communicate authentically that you're fixing it.
The Flash: Be quick.The Flash must make decisions in the blink of an eye or he might run into a brick wall or get hit with a cold ray. Sound familiar? In business, latency is a killer.
Rogue: Some things you're better off not knowing.Rogue (of the X-Men) can take on the powers and memories of another person. The memories often become a problem – i.e. suddenly knowing things that shouldn't be known. Same in business. For example, obsessing about what the competition is up to can hamper you from focusing on your own strategy and implementing it. Knowing a coworker's salary can cause you to fixate on it and hurt your own performance. Understand what you need to know… and don't.
Iron Man: Keep up with the latest technology.
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is the leading contributor of technological achievements to the Marvel universe. An absolute truth in business is that having the latest technology can really set you above competitors.
Jean Grey: Be empathetic.Jean Grey can read minds and eventually move objects with her psionics. You're never going to do the later; however, facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language often clue you into what people are thinking. Knowing how to read people means knowing how to react, which is important in business.
Invisible Woman: Shield your team.Invisible Woman (Sue Storm), one of my favorite characters, could turn invisible, but she learned to harness her powers into making a shield, or force field. This countered many of the powers of Fantastic Four villains. Similarly, business leaders must shield their team from distractions. The more you can keep your team engaged in their jobs, rather than letting them get derailed when the unexpected happens, the more scalable the whole organization can be.
Captain America: Inspire.Captain America is a symbol of America's post-World War II greatness. He always does what is right. He is fierce, strong and proud. In business, it's important to make a statement that shows who you really are. And to inspire both your employees and customers to grasp your vision.
Batman: You can do more with a good partner.
Every leader needs a Robin. A strong No. 2 tends to be essential in a company. The leader can't do it all.
Wolverine: Heal thyself.
Wolverine will get demolished by his enemies but heals faster than a normal human so he always comes back and kicks the crap out of them. Businesses can do the same. Failure can teach lessons and toughen a company to overcome adversity.
Wonder Woman: Only speak the truth.Wonder Woman is capable of winning battles, but what really set her apart was the ability to force truth from lies. Never lie to employees or customers; not even through omission. Because when they learn that you did (and even without a golden lasso, they always will), you will never regain their trust.
Huntress: It’s never too late to do the wrong thing
The Huntress is not a good character at first. She's the daughter of a mobster, and while she falls in love with the Green Arrow and stops killing people for awhile, she invariably turns toward the dark side again. In business, even if you've gone down the wrong strategic path, it's never too late to change course. In the startup world, we refer to this as "pivoting."
The next time your kid wants to watch their favorite superhero movie again, smile to yourself and think of it as a good career primer. It's amazing how these imaginary creations can inspire and teach us in our work.