When I saw the trailer for Hidden Figures, it immediately made it in my not-to-miss movie list. The title itself, and the conflict shown in the trailer piqued my interest. After all, the title was a very thoughtful pun.
The actors were great and the script was amazing. One of the things that I really look out for in movies is the script so I am confident that for those of you who enjoy witty lines, this movie is definitely worth your time.
What I particularly liked about the movie is that a lot of lessons can be learned from the lives and the situations the characters went through. While I’m sure you can pick up some more lessons other than what I will be listing, I would like to share the lessons that really stuck with me.
Here are the 10 lessons I’ve learned:
If you have not watched the movie and you don't want to be exposed to spoilers, please bookmark this page and read it after you have watched the movie.
1. Delegate responsibilities according to ability and commitment.
2. A manager’s or a leader’s job is to find the right person to do the job.
In one of the scenes, Al Harrison mentors Paul Stafford as to what his job really meant. Often, as heads of a group, a manager falls into the trap thinking that his job is to know all the answers. Stafford appeared to have been frustrated and felt competitive towards Katherine when Katherine was able to solve difficult key problems. To this, Harrison tells Stafford that his job was ‘to find the genius among the geniuses’.
If you are a manager or a leader, your job is primarily to manage people and to find people who may be better than you at solving problems. They may know more than you in the technical side but that is ok. The basic requirement for you is to be able to understand the situation and the solutions they propose. This will make you indispensable as a manager.
3. Your environment can affect your productivity.
4. If you want to succeed, help others become successful.
This story reminds of the corn farmer who had been awarded the best corn producer several times. When asked for his secret, he revealed that he would share his corn seeds with his neighbor. To someone who does not know how to farm, this appears like a silly decision, since his neighbors will be his competitors in the end. However, as a farmer, he knew that cross-pollination with his neighbors’ corns would happen and if they had inferior corn, the quality of his corn will be degraded. Hence, by helping others, he was helping himself succeed.
Often, we become so wary of competition, of being taken for granted. This is understandable as sadly, not everyone behaves in an honorable manner. However, there is a price for the checks, protectionism, and confidentiality done in business. If we can just overcome this and be more cooperative and helpful towards each other, then our progress will be very much faster.
5. Privileges are given with responsibilities.
6. Know the person before you pitch anything to him.
The scene where Mary Jackson was trying to convince the judge to allow her to enroll in a school that catered to white Americans only is one of my favorites. It is a perfect scene to demonstrate how to influence people.
Mary Jackson wanted to be promoted as an engineer but she had to attend some classes in order to be qualified. Unfortunately, the only school accessible to her was a school that had yet to take in a colored student. To be enrolled she had to get court approval.
With these three points, the judge granted her permission.
In every influencing attempt, it crucial to understand the values and interests of the person or group you are trying to influence. This was clearly demonstrated in this clip. You should be able to position your proposal as something they have to do because it resonated with their values and it is to their best interest, just like what Mary Jackson did.
7. Always ensure you have relevant skills.
The only thing constant is change so if you want to survive, you need to make sure that you have relevant skills.
Prior to the installation of the IBM, human ‘calculators’ were indispensable to NASA. With the coming of the IBM high-speed calculating machine, their skills would not only become redundant but obsolete. It would only be a matter of time when they won’t be needed anymore in NASA. Knowing this, Dorothy Vaughan convinced the ‘calculators’ to learn how to run IBM and it turned out to be a wise decision. They were ready skills-wise to adapt to the new technology.
When I was growing up, I would see shops where typewriting ladies waited for jobs. Now, with everyone having access to computers, I’m sure their services have become redundant. I still wonder how they coped.
If your job is heavily based on skills that can be digitized, or automated, you should start preparing a backup plan. Also, you should learn to manage your finances better so when your skills have been made redundant, you will be able to survive.
8. If you want changes, don’t just complain. Act!
This is a good reminder for me that complaining will hardly get anything done. The only way complaining would work for me is that if someone gets tired of my complaints and takes action. However, someone taking action to address my concerns is out of my control. If I really want something to change, I should take ownership and act on it. So I encourage you to do the same. If you are just complaining about something in your life, and if that is really important for you, do something about it.
9. Everyone can learn.
Two scenes stand out in my mind that drove this lesson. In both instances, it had to do with Dorothy Vaughan.
First, she taught the other ‘calculators’ how to run the IBM. Right now, I know the hesitation of many adults about their learning skills but I believe that if one really wants to learn, our brains will allow us to. Our brain is just like a giant muscle. We can train our brains to be able to learn, just how we can train our muscles to help us achieve physical tasks.
The second scene might be a stretch but from my literary interpretation, I think it’s relevant. Dorothy Vaughan decided to borrow a book from the section allocated to whites. Now while I know there was a segregation going on, I could not understand why both sections do not have the same selection. It makes me think that there was a preconceived notion earlier that people of color could not be as good as whites. I think everyone can learn, no matter what your color is.
Everyone can learn. Some may take longer, though. However, with the right learning techniques and sufficient time, everyone can learn anything. So don’t be discouraged.
10. Innovate: Make old methods relevant.
This is easily one of my favorite scenes in the movie perhaps because of the mathematician in me. The Space Task Group was convinced that the mathematical formula or method they critically needed was not yet available. Katherine realized that an ‘old Math’ would work but Paul Stafford remained skeptic. How could an old method be relevant in their quest to succeed in a technologically advanced project? Katherine proved that Euler’s method worked and was subsequently used for calculations.
It’s a good reminder for us who are on a quest to be innovative. There is a lot to discover from the current ‘technologies’ and their potential uses. Perhaps, instead of looking forward, we can look back.
I hope you have enjoyed these lessons I have shared with you. These will be very good examples if you want to emphasize your point.
Keep on learning, even from unlikely media.
If a picture paints a thousand words, videos and films show millions. Go grab that soda and bag of chips. Let's talk about these films. After all, a good film deserves a good discussion.