What can we learn from Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory?
As we grow up and begin our professional life, the lessons of the past tend to fade away, especially the ones from our favourite children’s books. Once upon a time, not too long ago, we read these books under the shade of the palm trees during summer vacation, surrounded by friends, eating jello - filling our hearts with joy and our minds with the most wacky ideas.
But today, we don’t have that kind of time or luxury. Doesn’t mean we can’t look back into our childhood to gain better perspective into our future. One of Roald Dahl greatest works - Charlie and The Chocolate Factory takes us into the life of Willy Wonka, a chocolatier who build the most successful chocolate factory with inventions you never thought were possible. While one might argue, why today and that too a fictional character, the answer is simple.
We are all looking for ways to learn and develop in our careers. And every day is an effort towards that goal. So, why not learn from someone who has it figured out. Coz what you can imagine, you can indeed achieve. And with one of our first conferences in Singapore around L&D, we give you glimpse into the many themes, Willy Wonka style.
Reading through the initial pages of the book, Willy Wonka comes across as a quirky and shy leader, who has a sense of wonder and knows everything there is to know about chocolate - his one true passion since he was a child. He wants to create the best chocolates and candies in the entire world with his rather peculiar inventions. But it’s not his mission to become great, it’s his vision of producing the greatest candies that makes him a character you respect and love, and someone you can look upto. When he introduces his work to the five children (winners of the Golden Ticket) including Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee, there is a child-like enthusiasm towards what he has achieved and what he is yet to achieve. Ad he is never afraid to risk it all for another one of his inventions - be it the everlasting Gobstopper, the three-course meal gum or the Fizzy Lifting Drink.
With People Matters L&D Singapore’s main theme around Leading Off - Built For Disruption, let’s take a leaflet from the book to explain why it’s of utmost necessity in today’s time. During Willy Wonka rise as the best chocolatier in the world, he realised that workers in his own factory were turning spies, ready to steal his recipes for his competitors. As his new inventions became the primary products sold by his competition, he had to close down the factory to put an end to the robberies and look for alternatives. While he found the Oompa Loompas on his journey to finding new chocolate flavours, he had to restructure his entire factory for his new workers and their welfare.
In the new world of work, each leader is battling continuous disruptions but the one who waits to respond to these disruptions rather than panics and reacts to it will have the upper hand in the years to come.
After the betrayal by some of his workers, Willy Wonka doesn’t let a single soul enter his factory except the Oompa Loompas. But then, one day, he does let in the five children, one of which indeed was to become the heir of the chocolate factory. He tested the five children in his own way (or rather their own naïveté did) and finally he had the heir, who he could mould, shape and teach everything there is to know about candies and the factory he built. And the Oompa Loompas, of course.
One of our subthemes at L&D Singapore includes Future Readiness From Business To Skills Transformation, which is finding the person with the right skills with the future of the industry in mind. It is essential for any leader to find agile people with the right ambition and the right attitude, who are able to look at the future and predict the capability gaps while driving business.
Now, coming back to the most hilarious part of the book, when all the four kids are cautioned not to do certain things in the factory but they tend to do it anyway, with the funniest puns weaved into moral poems sung by the Oompa Loompas. For Augustus Gloop, it was his innate greed for chocolate, for Violet Beauregarde, it was her arrogance and for Veruca Salt, it was her brattiness to get everything right that second that took her down the garbage chute, while for Mike Teavee, his downfall was his belief that he knew everything even when he didn't. Willy Wonka knew who would be the perfect candidate but more than that, he knew how to eradicate the good ones from the bad.
The second subtheme, which is around Developing A Skills Strategy Connecting The Parts To The Whole, explores the need to pause and think what is it that you wish to achieve in the next 10 days or months and how that will impact your goals in the next 10 years. In today’s skills economy, the leader needs to have a strategy that connects the parts to the whole.
Quite early on in the book, we come across Willy Wonka’s geniusness, when he builds a palace of chocolate for an Indian prince. And his many inventions throughout the book that includes Lickable Paper, Glow In The Dark Lollipops, Cavity Filling Caramels and the teleportation of candy through TV. It’s not that he has to keep reinventing himself to be the best chocolatier coz he already is. But his curiosity and the need to go beyond the limitations is something to admire even when there is no point to some of his inventions. Coz in all honesty, candy doesn’t need to have a point. But he keeps thinking of bigger and better ways of impacting the lives of children.
The third subtheme that will be explored at L&D Singapore is Reimagining Delivery and Infrastructure For Impact where organisations decide the enablers to find dynamic yet sustainable ways of impacting. When a firm is doing great, it is difficult for leaders to think about reinvention. But reimagining and reinventing yourself, time and again, is the only way to thrive and win in the modern economy.
In the end, it all comes down to the one leading it all. Without Willy Wonka’s eccentric ideas, there wouldn’t be a chocolate factory quite as exquisite. Great minds never think like anybody else and that’s one of the reasons why their inventions and legacy begins and ends with them. But we believe that just like Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket shall create the most amazing candies, for he is moulded by none other than the greatest.
One of the last subthemes at the conference is People Matters L&D Mastermind, which equips leaders to embrace dramatic changes to thrive and survive the future. So, get ready to lead off with People Matters L&D Singapore 2023 at Fairmont, Singapore on April 13. It’s not too late to let go off your thinking patterns and build a new learning muscle! Register now.