Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the movie Idiocracy. I generally won't re-watch a movie that I have already seen—especially if it has a rating of fewer than three stars—but this week I broke both of those personal rules. As a business owner and technology coach, I have been surprised to see how so many businesses have been handling their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and after re-watching the movie, I understand why it seemed to keep popping up in my mind.
A world full of idiots
Idiocracy came out in 2006 and is about a man named Joe Bowers. Joe is selected to participate in a top-secret military experiment on human hibernation. Along with a woman named Rita, he is supposed to hibernate for a year. The hibernating duo is forgotten when the base they are stored in is closed down, and they end up sleeping until 2505. When they wake up, they find that humanity’s intelligence has decreased so much that Joe is now the smartest man in the world. Check out the trailer for the movie below.
It’s important to note that not only has humanity become less intelligent, the world Joe Bowers wake up to is almost nightmarish. There are mountainous piles of trash, buildings are falling apart (if not completely destroyed), and everything seems to be covered by corporate branding – even everyday clothing!
I’m sure you can imagine the shock Joe and Rita experienced when they woke up from their 500-year nap! All of us think that we’re reasonably smart, right? But do you think you are the smartest person in the world? Even though we may not believe that I bet it is sometimes frustrating to watch other people handling things you are confident you could handle better. Whether it is politics, personal relationships, or business, you have probably looked at someone and thought, “Wow, what an idiot.”
But it's got electrolytes...
While calling other people an idiot seems harsh, even just in your head, I think you understand the sentiment. Every day as I go about my life, I see countless situations—including at the gym I like to attend—where I can’t help but wonder, “What are they thinking?”
One of my favorite scenes from Idiocracy is when Joe is trying to explain to the members of his team that they should be irrigating their fields with water—not Brawndo (a lime green-colored sports drink that has replaced water everywhere except the bathroom). The idea of using water to irrigate crops seems ridiculous to everyone else, and the only argument they have for Joe is, “But Brawndo’s got electrolytes.”
That same energy exists in arguments such as “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” or “we are doing what everyone else is doing.” There is only one thing in the universe that is constant, and it is that nothing is constant – everything changes, and sometimes at a blistering pace! Think about where you were personally and professionally last year compared to now. Things have changed, haven’t they?
The mark of a successful business is its ability to acknowledge and react to change. If you’ve always done something one way, and the opportunity to innovate and grow appears, take it! If you are doing what everyone else in your industry is doing, try something different! It will set you apart from your competition and draw the attention of new and existing customers.
Are we heading towards an Idiocracy?
A big question that Idiocracy raised for me is: would I rather wake up 500 years from now to discover the world has devolved into idiocy? Or would I rather watch the regression of society unfold into one that only drinks sports drinks and watches TV all day? I’m not sure if I would be able to sit back with a box of popcorn and watch as both society and business owners settle into a routine of comfort and convenience, without pushing themselves to innovate and grow.
When interacting with your customers, I want you to think about Idiocracy. Do you want your customers to leave with a sentiment of “what are they thinking?” I know I wouldn’t! Now is the perfect time to put down your popcorn and take an active role in keeping your company in a state where it can adapt to changing customer needs and procedural changes.