Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched it yet and plan on doing so, you might not want to continue reading just in case. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your experience with that magical show.
As I, like so many other Netflix users, marathoned Stranger Things 2 over the weekend, I began to take note of the numerous examples of collaboration and community throughout the series. This show is seriously Lord-of-the-Rings-level life goals for friendship and working to achieve a giant goal.
The characters on Stranger Things accomplish amazing, superhuman feats together and I love that the general storyline has followed a pattern of personal responsibility through teamwork vs. individualism.
I mean, what better way is there to take on a supernatural force from a another dimension than with all hands on deck and collective use of force and problem solving; a perfect combination of brains and brawn where all members contribute what they do best?
There’s a lot to be learned from these fictional characters as they possess qualities that humans admire in real life but may not experience first-hand that often.
You don’t have to be up against a shadow monster from Upside Down to reap the benefits from collaboration and community building.
Try applying some of these lessons from the series to your own work and career goals:
- Bravery is required for anything meaningful
Steve Harrington and Chief Jim Hopper were two of the series’ most physically brave characters in Season 1 and they maintain their fearlessness in Stranger Things 2, with the former utilizing his bat with nails a second time and the latter venturing underground to see first hand what the monster is up to.
Nancy doesn’t hesitate to expose the government’s role in Barb’s death or snatch up a shotgun to take on the demidogs.
Winona Ryder’s character Joyce Byers, the mother of Will (the boy once abducted by the monster in Upside Down and now returned home), displays great mental and emotional strength and bravery when she “exorcises” the monster from her son’s body.
People tend to think that those who demonstrate bravery are somehow endowed with special characteristics or attributes but we are all actually capable of courageous acts. We just have to make the choice to be brave.
Check out The Heroic Imagination Project by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, famed director of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
What brave and courageous moves can you make in your career, your daily actions, and your personal life? What ideas and movements can you boldly support for the greater good?
- Have a clear mission
In Stranger Things 2, there are multiple groups working parallel in order to achieve the goal of finding out how to get rid of the monster. Eventually, at the end of the season, they come together and fight alongside each other only to divide and conquer once again.
You never really see a group conflict and members naturally assume their roles based on their talents. In this series, any time a character is told they should stay behind and keep themselves safe, they pretty much never listen. Even the kids!
No one is willing to put themselves ahead of the group. Everyone contributes and understands the mission, which is what makes achieving the mission possible.
Note the Rule of Law established by Will’s friends: when someone needs help, they show up and help.
It’s easier for a group of people to work together when there is a clear mission. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the mission gets buy-in from all team members, perhaps by setting some kind of Rule of Law at the start of the engagement or project.
Remember this when you work in team, whether you are the leader or not. You can always lead by example even if you don’t have formal power within a team by showing that you are committed to the mission.
- Pyramid structures don’t work
Pyramid structures are rarely if ever truly effective. This kind of structure implies that there are just a few people giving orders and many acting on those order, regardless of what their own expertise and intuition tells them is the right course of action.
There is no centralized authority deciding how to take on the monster…and that’s what makes taking on the monster possible.
Different characters have different perspectives and there are multiple problems to solve, making those individual perspectives highly valuable.
From Dustin’s creative and playful imagination developed through role playing games and Bob’s coding skills to Steve’s experience with sports teams and Chief Hopper’s familiarity with approaching dangerous situations, everyone has something they can offer and adhering to centralized leadership would squash that.
When you create your teams for work and projects, remember that your co-workers can thrive without a single manager of leader. Organic organization is powerful.
- Focusing on community is the biggest middle finger to “the man”
The government as the enemy isn’t just a cheesy throwback theme that was most often seen in 80s sci-fi movies. There is meaning behind this theme and the reason we are attracted to themes like these is because they hold a lot of truth in them.
Government and military are responsible for opening the gate between reality and Upside Down, along with all of the destructions caused by it. There’s that centralized authority again.
The community coming together was the only thing that could balance out the power and limit the destruction, including getting the gate between worlds closed.
You too can organize something that has impact and counterbalances the “powers that be”. You just have to build the community, no matter the scale.
- Be a doer
Chief Hopper never hesitates to jump to action, whether it’s belaying into a super creepy and perilous underground tunnel or setting up formation to shoot up some demidogs.
Nancy follows her intuition to do the right thing and expose the research facility.
Steve doesn’t need to weigh his options when asked for help.
There are a lot of people in the world who spend a lot of time talking about problems but they never do anything to help solve those problems. Don’t be one of those. How can you contribute? What problem can you help solve? What community can you bring together in collective power?
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