What if we got business lessons from binge-watching?


Who among us hasn’t binge-watched an entire season of a favorite series? I am in no position to judge those who enjoy wasting a Sunday afternoon curled up with a premium cable drama or a Netflix original comedy. Indeed, there are so many options when it comes to good TV that, to paraphrase David Carr, TV’s new “golden age” can sometimes feel like a “gilded age”: an excess of riches.

Is it any surprise then, that by and large we are watching more television than ever before? Whether this is a good thing for us as a society (I am not sure it is), it is a fact of our lives. But instead of feeling guilty about this, why don’t we look at what we can learn from some of our favorite shows? Below, I take 3 of my favorites and find justification for spending hours watching and obsessing over them.

There are many reasons why Game of Thrones makes for compulsive watching. From the elaborate sets, to the web of intriguing characters (and even the amazing opening credits),Game of Thrones is a fabulous and surprising show. However, what makes GoT so compelling is its meditation on power. Cersei Lannister’s assertion in the first season that “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” is prophetic for the entire series where favorite characters are disposed of without a second thought.

Fortunately the modern day office is not nearly as cutthroat as Westeros and Essos. This said; one need only look at Khaleesi’s storyline to see that power can be seized for those who are willing to adapt. She begins the story sold as a bride to a nomadic warlord, she takes to learning the language and customs of the culture, and despite a series of setbacks, ends up leading her own tribe of ex-slaves.

Likewise, the character of Tyrion Lannister, played brilliantly by Peter Dinklage highlights how being an outsider can be an advantage. A dwarf in a world where a premium is put on brute force, Tyrion learns to survive by closely observing a world in which he is excluded. Tyrion is able to survive and thrive through observation, empathy and wit.

Veep: Resiliency

Unlike much of premium cable, Veep doesn’t feature a difficult man, but rather a fumbling woman. When we first meet Selina Meyer, she is a cynical foul-mouthed pol who by some cruel twist of fate ended up in the political position known as “not worth a bucket of warm spit” – the office of the Vice President. The first season we see Selina enduring the worst humiliations from the press, and even lowly West Wing staffers. Now in its 3 season, Vice President Meyer has had a change in fortune and is running for her party’s nomination to be the next presidential candidate. Veep is a great lesson that a figure of ridicule can become a serious player. Selina Meyer is the spokeswoman for resiliency. In the professional world, being able to roll with the punches, staying tough and keeping your staff on their toes is a great idea (see below).

Of course, do we watch these shows for business lessons? No, to be entertained, but sometimes we can learn some things along the way. After all to quote Steve Jobs “Television, at is best, is magnificent”.

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