Mr. Bartender and I really enjoy the show MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. If you’re not familiar with it, two special effects experts – Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage – recreate “myths” (read: urban legends, Hollywood effects, idioms, stuff) to see if they are true or not. To give you a flavor of the show, some of the things they’ve tested include:
- What happens when you put a real live bull in a china shop?
- Which is worse – driving while drunk or while using your cell phone?
- How far does snot travel when you sneeze?
They recently compiled a Top 25 Myth Moments which reminded me of the business takeaways you can get while watching the show.
Don’t overthink stuff. While the show gets into engineering and science, the hosts often realize that the key to recreating the situation is to use the simplest approach. Why? Because fewer things can go wrong. It’s the same in business, sometimes we add rules that are unnecessary or cause more confusion. There’s something to be said about keeping things simple and adding layers only as it becomes necessary.
Mistakes are fine as long as you don’t repeat them. Not everything on the show goes as planned. Just like in real life. When something goes kablooey, you have to step back, evaluate what transpired and develop a new course of action. As long as you’re not making the same mistakes over and over, then you’re learning from them. And that’s what success is all about.
Customer feedback can create a bigger win. MythBusters has gained quite a following over the seven years they’ve been on the air. As such, they get lots of fan mail. Fans asking them to test a certain myth…or telling them their original test was wrong. Instead of playing the expert card and saying their test was correct, they often go back and retest using the fan’s recommendation. Sometimes if they get a lot of mail regarding a particular myth, they will devote an entire show to fan letters.
Let’s face it, no business is perfect. It’s what you do when a customer says they’re not happy that matters. Any business that spends all of their time refusing to admit they might make a mistake will not have the trust and respect of their customers. MythBusters has learned how to turn fan feedback into an advantage.
Sometimes you need to blow things up. In the show, they take this literally. In 147 episodes, there have been 725 explosions. Like the episode where they tried to determine if you could blow someone’s socks off. (Spoiler: yes, you can but you also blow the person to smithereens.) Don’t worry…the show operates very safely and they have a designated crash-test dummy named Buster who is subjected to all of the stunt duty.
But in business, I don’t mean blow up literally. I’m referring to those moments when we should ask the question “What happens if we start over?” or “Would it be fine to stop doing this?” Companies don’t ask those questions nearly enough. Sometimes the sacred cows of an organization can keep it from moving forward because people are afraid to (figuratively) blow things up.
And last but certainly not least, is Never, I mean never compromise safety. This show has all the props of any modern action movie – guns, car crashes, explosions, etc. At no time do they compromise their safety or the safety of others. They consult with professionals when necessary. And repeatedly during the show they remind viewers not to try any of this at home. In fact, Adam Savage’s twitter handle is @DontTryThis.
I believe one of the reasons I enjoy shows like MythBusters is because I can be entertained and learn something at the same time. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our lessons were so enjoyable?