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“It doesn’t matter whether the story is true or not.   It just has to be a good story.”

So said Dave, a retired firefighter.   We had just heard an incredible story from someone who had responded to the World Trade Center attacks — or so this guy told us.

Movies are stories, too.   A movie about Facebook couldn’t have sounded less appealing.  From early reviews, I gathered that The Social Network was actually about people at work.

(Spoiler alert:  I’m about to talk about the movie.)

In a nutshell, two college students start creating a product, a website.  “Mark” is socially awkward, smart, and capable of blinding focus on a goal.  “Eduardo” is handsome, charming and cautious.

Both are hyper-sensitive to what others think of them.  They’re teenaged boys.

Demand for their product explodes.   When the school year ends, Mark moves to Silicon Valley to work on the website.   Eduardo accepts a summer internship and moves to New York.    Eduardo wants to advertise on the site; Mark does not.  When they separate for the summer, they don’t have a plan for how to communicate, and each works towards their own desired end.

(There are interwoven sub-stories:  three privileged and clueless students whose idea Mark may have stolen; the influence of Machiavellian venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.  Yada.)

We’ll never know the truth behind Facebook.   The film version could only have one ending.

Management lessons?

  • We don’t work for money:  we work for what we value.  Mark valued creating something “cool”; Eduardo valued appearing to be successful.
  • We work to belong, to participate in something greater than ourselves.  Mark was socially marginalized, and he knew it.   Eduardo wanted his father to be proud of him.   They both worked for acceptance.
  • We don’t like to have difficult conversations; this rarely ends well.   Eduardo and Mark disagreed about their fundamental business model, but didn’t agree on how to disagree.  This so didn’t end well.

The characters’ values and goals aren’t exactly transcendent.   Again, they’re teenagers.  Our team members have more adult goals, like providing for our families.

But we’re all human.  Though I work to act with integrity, some of my own goals are less than lofty.

I left the theatre with a soft spot in my heart for “Mark” and “Eduardo.”   The real young men, as well as their film doppelgangers.

The Social Network brought Dave’s firehouse kitchen table rule to mind.   Whatever the truth, it’s a good story.

What’s your favorite movie about the workplace?  What did you learn?

(Photo by Marc_Smith, used under Creative Commons License.)