Cartoon by James Noden
In the age of corporate purpose, the mission statement serves as a reminder of why an organization exists. While some are vague affirmations, others can sharpen employees’ minds and give them a sense of identity and belonging. In fact, research from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School shows that they work – as long as they translate into action.
At worst, however, they can be sinisterly ironic. One of the most intriguing details of the Theranos affair, recently brought to the small screen in Disney+ The stall, is that the blood-testing company’s mantra, written in all caps in the Theranos lobby, was “Do or don’t.” There is no test’, flown to star wars‘Jedi Master Yoda. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, played by Amanda Seyfried, didn’t lose her credibility as soon as investors and customers walked through that lobby and saw her.
But help is at hand! IR magazine scoured the film world for a few more mission statements that could breathe new life into corporate life for your organization.
‘Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads’
Dr. Emmett Brown’s famous statement in Back to the future is a perfect example of a movie quote that can be used as a mission statement. It involves having a distant, lofty goal that your organization has the vision to find, and getting rid of the kind of unimaginative thinking that would require a ‘road’, ‘plan’ or ‘strategy’ to get there.
However, it is best used by technology companies or those developing new modes of transport, and not so good for traditional infrastructure companies.
‘I’ll be back’
A great mission statement for an organization that has undergone several changes in industry, focus, or accounting structure to survive in the modern marketplace, this quote from The Terminator will galvanize employees with a steely determination to do whatever it takes to survive. It also has a ready-made follow-up to the film’s sequel, best employed in a completely new but related business, perhaps in a new home: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
“I drink your milkshake”
The bowling scene is one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s most disturbing. there will be blood but the message is useful – and not just for fossil fuel extractors.
It speaks of a competitive market and the need (metaphorically) to employ a long straw to reach far, to suck up precious resources. Consider using it as a call-and-response with Daniel Day-Lewis’ flickering follow-up, “I drink it!” »
‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’
This currency has several purposes. First, it gives your company a fun weekly dress code – guaranteed to boost morale and team cohesion. Second, it draws an important lesson from mean girls that it is important to think of the collective before the individual and that everyone owes allegiance to the queen bee of your organization, whether it is your customers, your investors or your CEO.
“You can’t handle the truth”
For when earnings mark an uncomfortable confession rather than a triumphant confirmation of your investors’ dreams. This line, shouted by Jack Nicholson in some good men, precedes a monologue about how it’s better for the public not to know certain things and how tough decisions can save lives. Perhaps best used as an unspoken corporate motto, otherwise – like Nicholson’s character – there could be an inevitable run-in with the authorities ahead.
‘Nobody is perfect’
The last line of 1959 Some like it hot shows wisdom that we can all use in our daily lives. As a business motto, it gives you some badly needed leeway. Applicable to everything from missing advice or your CEO’s rude response to an investor question to a full-scale corporate crisis, it’s also a good answer to have up your sleeve in tough times.
Don’t trust it when getting away from the authorities – or the mafia – in a speedboat.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of IR Magazine.