Marvel on Synergy

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Comic books

If you have even an inkling of knowledge into current pop culture, then you are aware of Marvel’s success. How does a comic book company come to dominate movies and television? The answer: a disciplined strategy founded in synergy.

There was a time (approximately 50 years worth) when Marvel “just” published comic books – Spiderman, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, etc. There would also be an occasional TV show, but these were blips on the societal landscape. Then, they decided to make an Iron Man movie.

Iron Man wasn’t one of the more popular characters, but he had an intriguing backstory and Marvel had a plan. If Iron Man caught on, this would be the gateway to a whole line of superhero movies. And it worked. Besides two sequels, Iron Man has spawned two Thor movies, two Captain America movies, and an Avengers movie.

All of these have been blockbuster successes and there are copious sequels to follow. In addition, a TV spinoff (Marvel: Agents of SHIELD) just wrapped up its first season, there’s another show (Marvel: Agent Carter) starting next year from the Captain America movies, and an upcoming line of Netflix shows. If this sounds overwhelming, can you imagine what Marvel plans to do in the future?

There are many leadership takeaways from Marvel’s story. With a three step plan that we can all utilize, let’s focus on Marvel’s ability to coordinate strategies.

Plan ahead.  Marvel has planned at least ten years down the road with multiple storylines in multiple mediums. Characters, many of whom have not yet been introduced, will intermingle and plots will be interwoven. A narrative from one movie will impact the television shows, comic books, cartoons, upcoming movies, and video games.

As Marvel shows, the first step to synergy is having a plan. So what do you have coming up? Make a list of every project, task, priority, and strategic initiative. Don’t worry about the details. Right now it’s about getting it all on paper.

Find connections.  Once you have your list, start looking for the trends. Group items into topics or departmental specialties. What do items have in common? Also, how is each item affected by the other items? Any shared resources?

Make a timeline.  There is a natural order for which things need to happen. As commonalities and relations are determined, you’ll be able to plot out how and when items should be developed and rolled out. With this frame of reference, you’ll also be able to pinpoint who should be working on particular projects plus identify the evaluations that you can take throughout this initiative to ensure that it has the ongoing support needed.

Synergy is not easy. We all have a number of moving parts – there are numerous people that need to communicate, resources are limited, and decisions that once seemed clear will change. It’s an immense undertaking, but isn’t that why we have leaders?

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