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The problem is the problem

Lessons from the making of the movie Jaws

In 1975 a scary movie called 'Jaws' was released. It is about the hunt for a massive man-eating great white shark that attacks beachgoers at a resort. The movie was a great financial success, in fact, the most profitable of its era.

More important than financial success, it is the power of management genius that matches the cinematic genius that is worthy of celebration. Few people know about how an unfolding disaster was midway converted into a success. It offers us a great lesson.

Three huge highly sophisticated lifelike mechanical sharks were manufactured and deployed during the movie production.

The main star of the movie, the mechanical, lifelike shark, (nicknamed Bruce in honour of Spielberg's lawyer) failed to perform. The technology used was not able to cope with the hostile sea environment and Steven Spielberg the producer was in despair. He watched with horror as the financial budget was almost exhausted and so was the time window that he had to shoot the horror film. Spielberg felt that his career in film production would end even before it really began.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.*

He asked himself, 'What would Alfred Hitchcock the legendary film producer of horror films have done under these circumstances?' The answer 'use the fear of the unknown rather than show the shark itself in the scene' Simply imply the presence of the shark and its horrible attacks using music', thus flipping the problem into an opportunity instead.

He would produce the shark movie without a shark. Terror, induced by presumption rather than reality. They reshot all the scenes removing all visuals of the shark showing the shark only after the eighty-first minute of the movie.

"It became, the less you see, the more you get," Speilberg later said, "because that invited the audience to come to the movie bringing their collective imaginations, and their imaginations helped me make that film a success"

Actor Richard Dreyfuss commented on the film's troubled production saying "We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark."

The lesson was simple, for many of us the problem becomes the problem. A problem can come to possess us so completely that we can neither see nor think of anything else. That exactly is the problem. It becomes like looking directly at the sun and we are blinded to everything else. If we reimagine the situation and ask ourselves, what are my goals and objectives? Can we achieve them by other means?

The science is clear.

If we glare at the problems first, we will let a problem define the entirety of what we do next, more likely than not we will fail. If we set aside the problems and seek objective solutions, we can succeed beyond all limitations. We do not have to necessarily fix the problem to accomplish what we want. We can sidestep or ignore the problem and maybe even redefine the situation to succeed.


* Quote on 'genius' is by Arthur Schopenhauer

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