business news in context, analysis with attitude

You may not have heard, but Michael Sansolo and I have a new book out that looks at business lessons from the movies. We must be onto something, because lately it seems like we keep seeing references to this theme in various places, even if they don’t specifically mention the book.

The latest was in the, which had an extremely interesting column the other day called “The Fall of Harrison Ford.”

The premise of the piece is this:

“Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Harrison Ford reigned as the unchallenged star of middle-of-the-road cinema. Almost unique in modern history, he not only created two iconic characters - Han Solo and Indiana Jones - but also managed to step away from them, into a hugely successful leading-man career in movies such as Working Girl, Patriot Games, and The Fugitive, to name a few. He excelled in grownup action roles, respectably above the pyrotechnic-driven thrills of Stallone and Schwarzenegger - but he was also able to charm as a romantic lead.

“As one-note as Ford’s performances were, audiences seemed never to tire of that note. Until one day, they did.”

Except for the tepid Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which garnered audiences but little respect, Ford hasn’t had a hit in a decade. His latest, Extraordinary Measures, out last week, looks like yet another bomb, well-meaning but uninspired. (To be honest, I have not seen it. But I feel no compulsion to run out and do so. Which is the problem.)

The story analyzes some of the problems that make it hard for Ford at this point in his career. Among them:

A single-note actor eventually goes off-key. Let’s face it. Han Solo isn’t all that different from Indiana Jones, or from Ford’s Jack Ryan, or even from his Richard Kimble. And he probably wasn’t talented enough actor, in the end, to do wildly different projects. Eventually, the audience just gets tired of you. (The corollary to this is the “every actor has an expiration date” rule.)

Disappointment hurts. There was hardly anyone not looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it speaks volumes that almost nobody is talking about a fifth movie in the series. (The corollary to this rule is, “don’t let George Lucas write your script.”) The movie just wasn’t very good, and disappointed in the way that the three Star Wars prequels did. (There’s that George Lucas rule again.)

But here’s the concluding paragraph of the piece, which brought it home for me:

“Business seminars could use the Ford implosion as a case study to show the need to remain agile and change with the times. And it is possible that when the actor passes out of this period, he could have an On Golden Pond moment, and, like Henry Fonda was then, be rewarded for his longevity. His fans yearn for that next phase to come. Because in the end, when Hollywood Homicide has long been forgotten, Han Solo and Indiana Jones will live on, along with Blade Runner and The Fugitive. He leaves us with the Harrison Ford we once loved moderately intact.

“Which these days in a celebrity, is far more than we’ve come to expect.”

Let’s rerun that phrase one more time, for good measure:

Business seminars could use the Ford implosion as a case study to show the need to remain agile and change with the times.

Whether you are an actor, a CPG company or a retailer, it is critical to continue to innovate, to play different notes, to move forward in terms of both vision and execution.

Or the curtain will inevitably fall.

After watching the announcement of the new iPad this week by Steve Jobs, Mrs. Content Guy asked me if I planned on getting one.

My response: “I just can’t imagine why I’d want one.”

But I quickly amended that statement, to: “Actually, I just can’t imagine why I’d need one right now. But I know I want one. A lot.”

That’s the real genius of Jobs and Apple. They make products so innovative that even if we don’t need them, we want them.


My wine of the week: the 2006 Giant Steps Sexton Dijon Clones Pinot Noir from Australia, which is bright and smooth and yummy. (This one also gets the Mrs. Content Guy imprimatur, by the way...and she’s a tougher judger than I am.)

That’s it for this week. have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

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