Five business lessons we’ve learnt from children’s TV and film

Inspiration can spark at any time, often when you least expect it. We’re big fans of Eureka moments, especially when they come from the most unlikely of places. When a brilliant idea hits you, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, or when it does; you just need to figure out how to make the most of it.

For us, one of the most unlikely sources has been from children’s TV and films. Kids are great examples of how you should approach learning; unafraid to ask questions and curious enough not to accept norms. All of us grown-ups would be better off if we applied their restless enthusiasm to our own approach for learning.

Perhaps that’s helped from the media they consume, as we’ve discovered that stories created with children in mind are direct sources of valuable business insight too. Here are five lessons we’ve learnt from children’s TV and film. 

Spongebob Squarepants’ not so secret ingredient

One of the enduring plotlines of SpongeBob SquarePants’ multiple cartoon series and films is the secret ingredient of the Krabby Patties. These are the burgers he makes in the Krusty Krab restaurant he works in, owned by Mr Krab. The arch-nemesis of Mr Krab, Plankton, spends a considerable amount of time trying to unlock this secret so he can replicate the success for his place, The Chum Bucket.

Their rivalry is an eye-opener for how not to deal with competition, but the biggest lesson is one we learn from an ingredient we do know about – love. It’s the presence of it which elevates Spongebob’s creations above the competition. The passion, care and dedication that he pours into his craft help make the burgers taste better. 

If you deliver a product or service in business without love, it won’t have the impact it needs to stand out in the marketplace. Demonstrating a passion for what you do, whether you make shoes or sell insurance, elevates you above your competition. Plankton would have been much better off investing in his workforce rather than trying to drag down his rival – although that wouldn’t have been as entertaining.

Bing learning from the little guy

Kids of a certain age become fixated on certain TV shows. A couple of our team’s children have had obsessions with Bing in the past, which meant endless re-runs of the programme. It follows a repetitive formula: Bing messes up or throws a tantrum, then figures out how to fix it.

There are a few cliches in the programme, but one of the clear tricks is that Bing and his friends have advisory figures in their life, and their role is never completely defined. Are they parents, carers, or paternal leaning friends? This ambiguity is useful for demonstrating inclusivity to children. What is striking is that they’re always smaller than the people they’re guiding.

It shows that it isn’t always the ‘biggest’ person who has the best advice. Ideas should have their own meritocracy, not based on the status of the person who has them. Anyone who has been in a meeting where the loudest voice drowns out more valid opinions will appreciate this. 

Matilda demonstrating greatness can come from anywhere

Bing teaches you that the most substantial insight doesn’t always come from the most prominent people. Matilda goes further and delivers the powerful message that anyone can be great. Originally a Roald Dahl book, Matilda has been converted into both a film and a musical and is full of lessons we can adapt within business and life. 

It resonates with kids as it traverses the well-worn idea of children getting one over mean grown-ups, but there’s much more to it than that. Matilda’s family look down on her for prizing intelligence and imagination above less valuable consumption. These include fast food and generic TV quiz shows – Dahl was against the impact of television in many of his books, an irony not lost within this article. But she’s also ostracised by her mother for not being girly enough, who also frowns upon Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, for choosing “books not looks”. 

After a few pranks against the story’s various villains, Matilda ends the story on a high by finding parental love with Miss Honey. She not only recognises her stunning intelligence but enables and encourages her individuality. This moral substance of prizing purpose and talent is particularly relevant in the modern world. 

It’s never been more critical to the workplace as well, where ingenuity and diversity are core ingredients to achieving success. Too often in the business world, we can be bogged down by metrics, and Matilda teaches us to be more mindful about what our priorities should be.

The value of routines from In the Night Garden

If there’s one thing that unites parents, it’s the lack of sleep in the early days. Newborns and toddlers are prone to attacking our circadian rhythms, whilst themselves being a nightmare if they’ve not had enough quality rest. Once you and your kids start sleeping through the night, everything gets easier.

In the Night Garden shouldn’t be an enjoyable experience for parents. It’s repetitive and pretty long for a programme of its type. Its effect is, however, transfixing toddlers and helping them unwind and get into the routine of going to bed. There are also techniques which help children improve their speech and start using their imagination, which is why plenty of parents swear by the development it offers their kids.

Your office life should probably never be as regimented as an In the Night Garden episode, but replicating its effect is a good idea. Undergoing a daily routine, even one you don’t initially enjoy, can reap dividends. And if you’re not sold straight away, stick with it. 

One method we’ve always believed in at Soap, underlined by our experience remote working, is that team catch-ups at the beginning and end of every day are vital. These can be all too easy to forget in the hustle-bustle of regular office life, but they have kept us all connected. They’ve also made us all more aligned with our shared goals. It’s one routine we’re delighted to have kept up.

Up’s relentless pursuit of adventure

Pixar’s 2009 tearjerker Up is not just one of the finest kid’s films of the century; it’s one of the best movies full stop. Listing every gem within it would need an article in itself, such is its mesmerising storytelling and powerful impact. But there is one key lesson which can translate to anyone or any business’s development: learning to step outside your comfort zone. 

The film’s main protagonist, widower Carl, has no family or friends and is entering a period of his life where his scope for enjoyment is lost. A chance encounter with a young child changes all that, and he ends up on a life-affirming adventure. The fact he achieves this without his wife makes it all the more powerful, managing to move forward when he seemed destined to stay chained to his past.

Whether it’s trying a new time-management technique, embracing a leftfield design trend or working with team members you’ve had no interaction with before; challenging yourself will bring the most significant rewards. Nothing powers personal growth like stepping outside your comfort zone. And of all the lessons we can learn from these stories, it’s the journey of a grumpy older adult who finally embraces change which resonates the most.

Written by
Jimmy Coultas
Jimmy Coultas

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