Sony’s Failure of “The Interview”:
Life-Changing Lessons from Failure
Computer systems at Sony Pictures Entertainment were hacked in November by a group with suspected ties to North Korea; terrorist threats picked up this week against cinemas in North America. All this in response to the December 25th-planned release of “The Interview,” a controversial movie produced by Sony Pictures that portrays Kim-Jong-Yong being killed. All of the attacks resulted in Sony Pictures this week canceling plans to release the movie. The $44 million spent on production plus the additional millions on marketing result in a crushing failure for Sony with little chance of the company recouping any of the losses.
So what can we learn from Sony’s failure? Don’t make movies that negatively portray terrorist dictators? That’s a good start.
I think that the way Sony and the entertainment industry respond over the next few weeks and months will provide the best opportunity to learn lessons from their failure. On a much smaller scale, there are ways for us to turn our business or personal failures into success.
Turn Your Failures into Successes
Behind every success there is always multiple failures of some kind or someone. Remember that. You may not always fail first, but chances are that you will at some point. Failure can be viewed more as informative than a truly negative thing–more like a guidepost or a traffic sign telling us which way not to go.
Consider these ways in which you can turn your failures into successes.
Break A Project Into Smaller Parts
Out of frustration, too often we toss out an entire effort, endeavor, or project because we’ve met failure or delay. In those circumstances, the strong of heart are able to carefully dissect a project in the smaller parts that made up the effort and critically analyze each piece to see which led to the failure. To rectify the situation, new assignments can be made, other routes can be taken—but only after the convoluted parts are untwisted.
Never Demand Perfection
What leads most projects into failure is an insatiable demand for perfection. Legends are told of Steve Jobs’s fits of perfection. After he left Apple in the late 1980’s he started a computer company called Next, with the objective of creating a truly perfect computer. He obsessed over the smallest details, often on the inside of the computer where no one would see. These continual changes set the launch date back further and further resulting in delays that bankrupted the company.
It is OK to launch a product that isn’t perfect. As long as you nail the critical features that the customer needs, some of the ancillary features don’t need to be perfect. For a time, some aspects of the project may be failures, but they can be improved in time.
Let Every Project be a Learning Process
Every person in your company comes with his own set of skills, talents and ideas. Each person can learn from the mistakes of the others, contributing to institutional knowledge. Every decision and the resulting mistake or success of a project should be well discussed and documented to later be used to prevent future failures.