What’s On

#sowhoknew: ‘Stranger Things’ teaches us 6 business & life skills

I’ve just finished binge watching Season 2 of the Netflix smash ‘Stranger Things’ and beyond the fact that it’s rather excellent it also got me thinking about what we can learn from the characters which could help us in our careers. As it turns out, there are at least six (Stranger) things that we can all benefit from…

1. The Crazy Ones – remember that iconic quote from Steve Jobs?

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently”

This could well have been written with the character of Eleven in mind. She’s quirky, uber-talented and somewhat scary at times but she is also undeniably brave and we all need the characteristics of a maverick like El on our team.

2. Get Your Gestalt On – the intense friendship of Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas is at the very core of why the team operates so well and El is the glue that binds them all together. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Together equals stronger. In series two, the addition of the Mad Max character actually threatens to break that friendship bond and has some potentially negative consequences (no spoilers in case you haven’t watched it yet) which will inevitably carry over into Series 3.

3. Stranger Skills – like pieces of a jigsaw, the skills or powers of each individual character complement each other and combine to work collectively. Mike, for example, is also known as the ‘Dungeon Master’ not only because he is the de facto leader of the group but also because his encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ helps with the many puzzles that the team have to unravel. Dustin’s alias is the ‘Compass Genius’ because he has innate geographical and mapping skills which (again no spoilers) really come to the fore in Season 2. Even the new character of Max realises that getting the hi-score on ‘Dig Dug’ isn’t sufficient to become a member of the group. She needs a skill all of her own, which turns out to be her speed and dexterity on a skateboard, and hence she adopts the nickname of ‘Zoomer’.

4. Nerdy is Cool – you know when the boys dress up as the Ghostbusters for Halloween at school and nobody else dresses up at all, that these guys are genuine nerds. With their fake, yet quite realistic, Proton Pack and Ghost Trap (which ultimately has a practical use) there is no faulting their attention to detail and that in itself is pretty cool. In fact the seemingly cool characters ultimately tend to crash and burn. A prime example is Steve, the atypical High School jock, who loses the affections of Nancy to nerdy Jonathan, gets beaten up by the new bad boy Billy and is also ridiculed for using Farrah Fawcett hairspray on his neatly coiffed 80’s mullet.

5. Listen to your Gut – even when things get weird (and they really do get very, very weird in Hawkins) the characters still trust their intuition and use their hearts as their compass even when their heads tell them that what they are experiencing can’t possibly be right. This is never more true than with Winona Ryder’s character of Joyce who always refuses to give up on her son despite the odds being stacked so highly against her. As she said in Season 1 whilst trying to rationalise why she has set up some kind of Christmas light ouija board in her lounge to try and contact Will in the Upside Down:

“Maybe I am a mess, maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m out of my mind. But, God help me, I will keep these lights up until the day I die, if I think there’s a chance that Will’s still out there”

6. Anger Management – anger is often frowned upon both in life and business but ‘Stranger Things’ shows us how, only if it’s channeled properly, it can be used as a powerful force for good as epitomised by El in the final episode. Yet it also shows us how anger can be incredibly discordant particularly when El meets her ‘sister’, number Eight, and witnesses how she is manipulating her powers through unsuppressed fury to the detriment of some innocent people.

So there you have my personal list of six life and business skills that we can learn from ‘Stranger Things’. Have you got any more to add? As ever I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.
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