How watching a short clip from a Tom Hanks movie saved one company £1.5 million

If you’ve ever facilitated a product development workshop you know the situation: you’re all hyped up about a new idea you think has the potential to change the world. Then some Typhoid Mary pipes up with a bunch of show stoppers.

Now everyone is infected and thinking it’s all so much easier to go back to business as usual, safe in the knowledge that another plot to make extra work for everyone has been foiled.

Here’s one way to deal with things : show them a clip from the film Apollo 13. Specifically, the bit where the crew on board the lunar module are facing imminent suffocation due to a faulty air filter, so the scientists on the ground are forced to make a ‘square peg fit a round hole’ with whatever is available to the astronauts.

I showed the clip to one client team I was working with, who were all blockers and no action.

Before watching the clip the team was fatalistically resigned to business as usual. They didn’t like it, but they accepted it.Business as usual was a six month requirement gathering phase leading to a £1.5m bet on an unproven concept.

After watching the clip, they built a working proof of concept within two hours, a fully fledged beta test within 6 weeks and ended up with an award-winning product that delights customers and is incredibly valuable to the business.

So what changed?

The clip helped them realise they had far more resources available to them than they first thought. They could use these to build a prototype and really understand what they wanted to create.

The miserable grind of requirement gathering and money wasting was not inevitable. Accordingly their attitude and behaviour changed.

Before watching the clip the team was fatalistically resigned to a six month requirement gathering phase and a £1.5m investment in an unproven concept.

So there you have it. By injecting a bit of surprising inspiration into an otherwise deathly workshop scenario, it is possible to totally change the dynamics of a group and unleash people’s creative potential. Who’d have thunk it?

If you have your own suggestions or you want more advice, tips and tricks on how to inspire your team leave a comment or drop us a

Dean Wilson is a Senior Consultant at Fluxx, a company that uses experiments to understand customers, helping clients to build better products. We work with organisations such as Lloyds Bank, Royal Society of Arts, the Parliamentary Digital Service and William Hill.

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