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Lessons from Movies’ Biggest Problem-Solving Characters of 2018

As movie critics wrap up their Best of 2018 lists and Oscar season begins to gear up, it’s an excellent time to reflect on the best problem-solving movie characters of 2018 and how their lessons apply to the workplace. No, Thanos isn’t on the list. Not everyone agrees that freeing the galaxy of half its population would solve anything, but we’re open to arguments otherwise!

Be Prepared! Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from Halloween

Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

All of the sequels (and the remake and the sequel to the remake) to the 1978 classic are ignored in 2018’s Halloween, so that the filmmakers can explore the idea of what might it look like if an existing problem (in this case Michael Myers) was left unresolved and ignored for 40 years.

Laurie Strode, the surviving babysitter from the first film, is now a grandmother, and she’s spent her life prepping for what should happen if Myers returns. Maybe he won’t – certainly nobody else in the film believes he’s a threat to Strode – but for her, it’s better safe than sorry. She adds extra security measures to her home, built around her existing knowledge of how he attacks, that are unobtrusive so that the home still looks and feels like a home.

I bring that last bit up because not every change needs to conspicuously alter everything around it. Not every problem can be anticipated, but they can be prepared for, especially if we’re fixing something that already went wrong the first time. The important thing is to not build to the problem, but to address the issue effectively while still maintaining all of the original function.

Laurie’s house could’ve been a thick steel box with bullet-proof glass barriers and keycodes for every door, but at that point, she’s living in a prison, not a home. Instead, she found ways to hide solutions without sacrificing her own comfort; she kept the original function intact while imperceptibly preparing for problems.

Be Inventive! Shuri (Letitia Wright) from Black Panther


Shuri, the teenage genius little sister of T’Challa the Black Panther, broke out in a huge way after his movie was released. Marvel now publishes a monthly Shuri comic book based entirely on renewed interest in this long-supporting character, and there are even Shuri fashion-style dolls sharing shelf space with Barbie in the toy aisles. We all can’t be child prodigy inventors, but there are things to note about Shuri that we can apply.

She was always iterating, for one. She unveils a new and improved Black Panther costume right away (audiences didn’t even know he needed improvements!). She gives him noise-reducing boots and impact-absorbing mesh to help on his missions. There are always ways to improve current standards.

Secondly, she’s an unlikely resource. Well, likely for the Marvel Universe maybe, but a teenager with a lot of free time isn’t typically where we go looking for a tactical advantage. Maybe you’re the unlikely resource, sitting on a new idea that might be worth discussing? Or maybe you’re in a position to seek out unlikely resources for feedback and ideas? There is not one second spent in the movie over Shuri second-guessing her role, experience, or overall worth to Black Panther. She presents her ideas fully-considered and with the confidence of someone who knows that fresh ideas being value to her team (in her case, the nation-state of Wakanda; in your case, the workplace).

Be Adaptable! Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski & Emily Blunt) from A Quiet Place

Platinum Dunes/Paramount Pictures

So, you’re going to have a baby! That’s a lot to adapt to, but even worse when noise-hating monsters from beyond have invaded the earth. The Abbott’s had some big decisions to make regarding bringing a baby up in this new and deadly world, but rather than just give up, they choose to adapt. They couldn’t raise a baby the “old” way and had to create a special environment to ensure its well-being.

We see too many companies struggle to pivot from an established way of doing things, even if a change has already happened. The Abbotts were face to face with a dilemma that needed a quick solution, under an established time table. They adapted quickly. What they didn’t do is spend nine months discussing possible plans or trying to second-guess every outcome until the baby was already there and – whoops – too late. They knew problems might happen, but they’d already adapted once and were confident they could adapt again if need be. They were open to adapting for the survival of their unit, and that’s good because they had to. We, as workers or as companies, should be no different.

Be Reliable! Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) from Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Skydance Media/Paramount Pictures

Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat because Hunt’s reliability is what gets him to play directly into the villain’s hands in this installment, but hear me out – he also reliably saves the day. Can people say the same about you? Sometimes, a little predictability can be a good thing! Are you predictably prepared, inventive, and adaptable? Ethan Hunt is, and, yeah, that’s why he’s a big screen movie hero and we’re not, but we can certainly aspire to be as reliable.

At Rocksauce, we facilitate and design innovation sprints through problem-solving exercises. We also pilot, create and develop new ideas, solutions, and software for companies big or small. Reach out to us today to see how an innovation or design sprint workshop can encourage goal-setting, ideation, and innovation at your company.