By Mark Dexter
2nd September 2014

I’m a huge Lego fan. I was a huge fan of the building sets as a kid and have really enjoyed using it with my kids. We spend many hours building and rebuilding various designs, both ‘off plan’ and freestyle pieces using our imagination.

However I wasn’t convinced when I heard they were bringing a Lego movie out. The sceptic in me was worried that it would be an extended commercial for Lego without any real value as a movie.  I relented recently and bought a copy to watch with the family. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a fast-paced sci-fi romp using a mixture of real Lego pieces (nearly 4 million I understand) and some pretty impressive CGI trickery.  Story-wise it is a type of boy (Emmet the construction worker who is a total conformist) meets girl (Lucy aka Wyldstyle, free-spirited erstwhile girlfriend of Batman), is inspired by Vitruvius (mythical bearded chap voiced by Morgan Freeman (yay!)) and becomes an unlikely hero who saves the world, whilst out-thinking the villain (President Business) who is an all-powerful, controlling corporate overlord.

I suppose you’re wondering if there’s a work related point to this?  Bear with me, there is. The beginning of the film sees Emmet (along with most of his fellow citizens) going through his daily routine religiously following an instruction manual. Everything from how to smile when he wakes up, to who to eat his breakfast with, what TV shows to watch, what songs to sing (the insanely annoying but equally catchy ‘everything is awesome’ that gives this piece its title).  He is even told how to return a compliment to people he meets on his way to work, a construction site. Where, guess what, he builds stuff following an instruction manual.

I won’t go into detail on his journey to becoming a hero (no need for a spoiler alert you’ll be relieved to hear) but suffice to say one of the main themes of the film is around Emmet using his mind to do things, to make things up, to actually be creative with what he builds.  In other words not just reading the instructions. My point? Oh yes, my point. Working as I do with a variety of companies large and small, I sometimes wonder how much people’s creativity is stifled by the corporate machine they are part of (President Business), and how more might be achieved by people like Emmet with a little encouragement by the likes of Wyldstyle inspired by an idea from someone like Vitruvius.

Don’t get me wrong, many huge corporates encourage free-thinking and entrepreneurship, but I see some hugely talented people stifled and frustrated but overly rigid corporate rules.  There are also some very rigid methodologies in place in small businesses too so I’m not sure if there is any great correlation in size, but what is clear to me is that some businesses are driven from the top, with little regard for individualism from the talented people that work there.  This might all sound hugely idealistic from my part but I’m a firm believer in empowerment, in letting people flourish, and yes, to learn from their mistakes.

Are you given the freedom to express yourself at work? Are your ideas ever acted upon, or does your boss nod wisely and then do what they wanted to do in the first place?  Or if you are reading this as a manager, do you really allow your team to express themselves and include their ideas in how your company operates?

I’m not necessarily expecting answers on a postcard here (your boss may be reading after all!) but if you can’t answer yes, perhaps there is another company and/or boss out there who may give you more opportunities to express yourself, not to follow the ‘instruction manual’ so closely. 

Lego movie

Hopefully I may have given some managers out there some food for thought as well; that with everyone’s input and a decent mechanism for encouraging staff ideas there is a much better chance of everything being awesome where you work too!

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