Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for; opening weekend of the movie, The Hunger Games. A few weeks ago, we wrote about four important business lessons from the book and movie, but we just couldn’t leave it at that. In our last article, we tried really hard to avoid plot spoilers. This time, we just can’t help it. If you haven’t read the book and you’re hoping to be surprised at the end of the movie, you might want to bookmark this article for later enjoyment.
We admire Katniss for her courage to disregard tradition and do things her way, no matter the risk. She sees her position very clearly and isn’t consumed by fear. Instead, she focuses on ways to change her situation. We think that every business can benefit from these two factors: innovation and courage.
There’s only supposed to be one winner at the end of the Hunger Games. Everyone knows this rule and everyone has been willing to abide by it, even though that means the death of 23 innocent teenagers.
But Katniss isn’t afraid because she has an awareness that the other participants of the Games don’t: she knows that she has nothing to lose. The odds are not in her favor–she is very likely to die. When death is almost certain (and you’re willing to accept and face that fact), you’re much more willing to take risks. After all, you’re going to die anyway.
When faced with the choice to either kill Peeta or flout the rules of the Games, Katniss realizes that she has nothing to lose. And she knows that a dual suicide will spell PR disaster for the Capitol. So she gives Peeta the poisoned berries and pretends to be ready to eat them herself. At that point, of course, the Capitol steps in and declares two winners. Katniss gets what she wants by being willing to risk everything.
There are many true-life business examples of this kind of chutzpah. Our favorite is that of Hyundai. In 1986 the little Korean company introduced the Hyundai Excel. It was inexpensive, but cost-cutting techniques rendered the car unreliable. Soon after introduction, consumers began complaining about the Hyundai Excel as they took their cars back and forth to the dealerships for constant repairs. Sales plummeted and the company became a nation-wide joke.
It was a given that Hyundai was going to die. After all, Detroit’s big 3 automakers had market share. They had all the power, and Hyundai was just a tiny little company trying to compete against companies with long histories. The PR nightmare that was unfolding around the Excel would surely crush them.
Instead of giving up and committing suicide, Hyundai went back to the drawing board. They began to make improvements on their products and introduced new products that they thought consumers would want. They focused on low price, but also offered an unheard of warranty – 10 years or 100,000 miles.
In 2004, Hyundai ranked equal to Honda for quality and second after Toyota for reliability. The company continues to receive industry awards. Revenue in 2011 was $97.408 billion. The determination and courage to keep competing even in the face of terrible odds worked out well for them.
Just because one guy (or company) has all the power (or market share) doesn’t mean that you can’t stage a revolution and change the industry. Katniss began a revolution at the end of the Hunger Games. When she made a stand against the man with all the power, she helped the citizens of Panem start to see that they could change. Hyundai helped consumers see that they had other choices and, as a result, consumers nearly bankrupted the big 3 automakers and demanded an updated, more quality product. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have all begun to focus on consumer needs instead of resting on their laurels.
If you’re starting a small business, odds are that you’re the little guy, trying to compete against much more established companies. Maybe another company already has market share. Maybe the odds are against you. That’s OK. You have nothing to lose, right? Dare to be innovative. Dare to do things differently than your competition.
The citizens of Panem really didn’t like the Hunger Games. They were forced to watch the games and participate in parades and celebrations, but in their hearts, they truly didn’t want to sacrifice their children. Katniss was able to see that the people with the power weren’t really meeting the needs of the citizens. She was able to see what people really wanted and help them get it.
Hyundai saw that American automobile manufacturers weren’t giving consumers what they really wanted, so they provided it. And it worked.
If you can find out what your customers really want, you can find ways outside the norm to provide it. And if you can do that, you’ll win the game.