A Book Idea: Nick at Night Business School, or All I Learned from 60's Sitcoms


I think that there might be a market for a management book based on the 60's sitcoms. It would be sort of 'tongue in cheek' but also a constructive look at common management problems and solutions as told by the stories in some classic 60's sitcoms.

There could be a few different ways to set this up. Either each chapter could address a certain problem and then show examples of different solutions from various shows, or each chapter could focus on a show and what we can learn from it. A combination of the two could work well also.

Let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Take Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies and his internal optimism and easy nature. Near the end of Episode 6, Trick or Treat(Four Minutes into Clip) , Jed decides that it would be a good idea to call Cousin Pearl. Jethro tries to dissuade him some by reminding Jed that Cousin Pearl 'ain’t got no telephone at home'. Granny says that mere fact 'don't matter, she ain't never home no how'. Jed concludes:

"The way I look at it, you can’t never tell what you can do until you try"

After Granny reminds him to 'spin the wheel' on the phone, and with a little help from culminating concurrent events, they do in fact end up connecting with Cousin Pearl.
One could suggest from this situation that optimism and focus could and should outweigh insurmountable odds and their drum beats.



The importance of communication could be highlighted with any of the farcable situations that took place in these shows.




One simple example is in this I Dream of Jeanne clip.

She's trying to get Major Nelson to except something 'big' from her as a wish. Tony finally agrees, but before he can state what he wants she blinks and produces an Elephant. Then Dr. Bellows show's up, of course, and.....ect, ect, ect.

The two problems there would be that what 'big' is was not clearly defined and Jeanne acted before a common plan was devised (I, for one, forgive her).



Some show episode titles could serve as inspiration in themselves. Take for example these Dick Van Dyke episode titles, any of which could stand alone as a management book title:


Never Name a Duck.
A Bird in the Head Hurts.
It May Look Like a Walnut.
The Square Triangle.
All About Eavesdropping.
The Pen is Mightier than the Mouth.
Fifty-two Forty-five or Work.



In that last episode Rob recalls the time he was out of work and had no furniture, a new house and a pregnant wife. In 'Never name a Duck' Rob finally has to tell Richie that his duck got too big, and was like a 'duck out of water'. Those are two stories that could easily be made into management lessons.





My favorite 60's sitcom management tool would have to be the one that comes from F-Troop, the show about the Civil War Era soldiers at Fort Courage.

I like this lesson so much I have an F-Troop post card on my refrigerator as a reminder.


You see, on this show there is a reoccurring gag. During a cannon salute, the cannon is lit and doesn't fire. It never works. The frustrated soldier then kicks the cannon wheel. This causes the cannon to topple over. Now it fires, and because of the new angle, it is aimed at the guard tower. The guard tower with guard inside falls over. It's great stuff actually. As a kid I couldn't wait until they shot the cannon off.



Of course there is so much to learn from this and could make for an entertaining PowerPoint for the staff. First, there is the simple 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result' issue. Diving deeper, we could spot light a training issue, such as 'don't kick the cannon tire when the cannon doesn't work'. There is also a maintenance issue: Fix the freaking cannon.

Then there is the big picture issue: Why are we doing cannon salutes in the first place, and why with real cannon balls, and why the cannon is facing anywhere near anything it could destroy?


These questions could easily be transposed into the particular situations of any company and thereby make 60's sitcoms an entertaining way to spread some Great Ideas.

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