Inception is one of those films that took over the zeitgeist once it was released. It was being talked about everywhere in songs, movies and tv-shows. Here is a supercut of references from tv to see how widespread it was (7) “Inception” References in Film/Television SUPERCUT by AFX – YouTube
When you think of this movie, you’re either going to think of a few things:
What the hell did the ending mean? Is Cobb dreaming, or is he awake? Is the spinning top falling? Does it even matter?
The sound of Inception, even reading this, I’m pretty sure I can guarantee it will play in your mind BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMRMRMMRMRMMMMM
You’ve used the word Inception when confusing someone, being confused or planting or suggesting an idea to someone else. Yes, we can do it, just not as elaborately as in the movie.
Well, there’s another thing we can think about the main plot of Inception creates a parallel to a start-up or business. This parallel leaves us with plenty to learn from? Now, this is the seed of an idea that has just been planted, Incepted, you may even say.
Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is the protagonist of the story. Cobb is tasked with implanting an idea in a Corporate CEO’s mind which will allow his client, another CEO, to benefit from it. We have our Founder, our outcome and our method to achieve it. Cobb knows what he has to do and the plan to achieve it; Inception.
He doesn’t know how he will pull it off. He knows he can’t do it on his own. Cobb understands his limitations and that it will take a team to successfully achieve this outcome. Cobb is also aware of another problem: his limitations and the threat he poses to the project’s success. Within his mind, he is fighting his own challenges in the form of his dead wife.
Just as every start-up founder should realise, you cannot do everything, and Cobb shares that exact mindset. He knows the team is greater than the sum-of-its parts and that they can achieve the success they’re aiming for by coming together.
The Founder drives the direction and sets the vision and outcome, and a
great founder is aware of their limitations. This self-awareness allows them to recruit the right people for their team. In the early days, yes, you may wear the hats of many team members, but you will know where you’re limitations lie and the team members you need to recruit.
An interesting fact, if you didn’t know this about the film, is that Christopher Nolan modeled the team around film production. Each role has a direct analog in real-life. I’m not going to focus on the movie business, but in general business and the team members that a start-up founder will need within their ranks.
In the movie, Cobb is the extractor. He can enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets. If you wanted a direct parallel to a founder, Cobb would be the domain expert who sees a problem in the industry and sets about creating a solution.
This kind of Founder is extremely powerful. They have years of experience and domain knowledge. They know the ins and outs and industry and know how to navigate the dangerous political dream worlds.
The Founder knows what needs to be done and how to get there but can’t do it on their own.
Other times your Founder won’t be the extractor. Think about a small business bringing a product to a new market. The Founder of that business knows their domain and product well but needs to recruit an Extractor to help them through the dreamscape of new markets.
In the movie, Arthur is the Point Man. He is responsible for helping execute Cobb’s mission.
His job is to:
- research the details behind the mission
- understand the nuances of who he is working with
- ensure each team member knows their role
- and focus on executing the mission
Like any start-up, the team in Inception encounter unforeseen challenges and must adapt to survive.
The Point Man is rarely a start-up founder as they are more concerned with the operations and ensuring the business operates and executes the plan. The Ultimate goal is to deliver value to customers. The Point Man ensures the plan is possible.
You may have heard the term right-hand man; that’s who the Point Man is. It’s the one person the Founder can rely on to ensure everything moves forward and operates as it needs to. Generally, founders are broad and forward-thinking and do not think about the tiny day-to-day details.
The Point Man and Extractor can make a formidable team on their own as they support each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Ariadne is the Architect, she is responsible for creating the mazes that the dreams are based on, helping sell the reality of them to the target.
Now, are you thinking, what sort of Architect do we have in business? We already have our Founder who draws the plans and vision of what we want to achieve. But I see the Architect as our Marketer, the person who creates a reality for our customers to buy into and understand the value we offer.
Our Marketing person helps create marketing material that contains the correct wording and messaging that resonates with our customers. We need to understand the pain points and use the appropriate language that strikes a chord with our customers. We effectively create a world that sells a possible reality to our customers. Our Marketer is our Architect.
We have salespeople in direct contact with our customers; they generally convert our leads into paying customers. However, we need a way to find our leads, to begin with. This is where our marketing comes in.
We need to promote our business, not by what we do, but by what value we offer or the problems we solve. We use our content to create a new reality or world for our potential customers showing them that we can solve a problem and improve their world. We craft messaging to present them with better times within their own business or life.
We are performing the same actions as the Architect. Where we differ is we don’t try to con our target into believing something is real. We know we can offer real value and work towards understanding how to convey this to our customers.
Eames is the Forger. He can impersonate anyone required within dreams. The Forger studies his targets to understand how they operate, their mannerisms and anything needed to Forge their identity. He is key to convincing the target he is talking to his own manifestations rather than an imposter.
While we don’t need a forger in business unless you’re into that kind of business… We do need Sales People. Yes, really, I’m mapping Eames the Forger to a Sales Person. Who else in an organisation needs to study people, understand their needs/wants/desires and learn their mannerisms? Unless you understand what your customers want and can solve a problem for them, you won’t have that much of a business to run.
Our Forger is key to convincing people that they will get value from our products or services. We are not tricking or conning anyone but rather understanding our customers so that we can communicate the value we offer in a way that resonates with them. We build trust with our customers by understanding their pain and issues and solving a problem that others haven’t solved or haven’t been able to communicate with them. We build a friendly rapport with them and help take them on a journey to which the endpoint is the outcome they expect.
Yusef is the Chemist. The Chemist is responsible for creating the drugs used to sedate the targets and allow them to enter the dreams of their targets.
Within your team, the Chemist could be considered a specific Expert. This Expert can leverage their skills to create or provide something of utmost importance that no one else may be able to. In the case of the start-up, this could be a highly specialised individual, e.g. a programmer from an ancient language or a consultant who is an expert within a specific niche.
You may not need a Chemist on your team, but you will know when you need one. Their skillset will become required as no one on the team will have the knowledge you need for a specific step of your mission. I’m sure the rest of your team can learn those skills over time. However, leveraging the Chemist allows you to execute quicker, not wasting time or money.
Employer / Tourist
Saito is the Employer or person who funds this project. He travels along with the team as a tourist, observing them working within their dream. For any start-up or business, Saito is your customer or your client. If you’re selling a product, he is the product the customer is designed for. Saito is the customer that is getting all the value of the product.
If you’re in a service-based business, Saito is your customer. You are providing your service to him, and he is receiving all of the value of your service.
Without a Saito, you have no business. You need customers. While they are not technically team members, you and your team are there to serve customers. If you don’t have any customers, what are you doing?
Your customers’ needs are what your product or service should fulfil. Suppose you do not provide value and a successful outcome to your customers. In that case, your business/project/mission (whatever you want to call it) will fail. You will not have planted any ideas; if your business was a movie, it would end abruptly.
If you’re starting out in business and are looking at kicking off something new, I hope this seed has taken hold and grown into a well-thought-out idea. Using this idea, you will know your outcome, goal, and the team you need to achieve.
“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”
How will this seed of an idea affect your business? Will you learn from it and grow or ignore these important lessons and let your business be destroyed?