3 Business Lessons from the movie The Giver


Whether you have seen the movie, The Giver, or read the book by the same name, you probably haven’t thought about the business lessons that can be learned from the dystopian thriller, but that’s why I am here!

If you’ve not seen the film, I promise there are no spoilers here, so it’s safe to read on. The Giver takes place in a futuristic Utopian society called “the community” – a community that is seemingly ideal, a world of conformity and contentment, albeit colorless.

LESSON 1: People will make mistakes and when they do, there is an opportunity for learning.

Meryl Streep, who plays the community’s cold dictator, makes this statement (used quite a bit in the movie promotions): When people are free to make their own decisions, they choose wrong.


Many leaders attempt to control as much as they can in their environment to keep mistakes and “inferior” ways of doing things to a minimum. When this is done it stifles creativity and people will not take ownership of whatever it is they are responsible for doing. It’s almost as if these leaders were already indoctrinated with the philosophy of Streep’s character.

When people are allowed to create their own way, mistakes will be made. When that happens, two great opportunities are presented. First, there is the opportunity for learning by all involved. Growth should occur as a result of a mistake. Second, it is an opportunity for everyone to see the kind of leader they have. A leader that patiently responds and works with someone through the “growth opportunity” will be held in very high esteem and the loyalty of the followers will become much greater.

LESSON 2: Being transparent really does make a BIG difference.

The people that make up the community in The Giver are unaware of death and anything else that might be construed as bad because it is either hidden from the population or it has been given an ambiguous name that hides the true nature of the event.

Companies need to be transparent with their employees. Organizations that are closed and share very little with those who work in the organization create a culture of mistrust and culture where gossip is the source of company information.

Being open and transparent allows employees to take ownership of the direction of the organization and creates buy-in to the mission and goals.

LESSON 3: There is no perfect company.

The end of The Giver shows the weakness of the controlled society it depicts. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a community or world that is perfect. You might be able to hide the imperfections for a while, but eventually, the truth will appear.

Many times it is the owner or leader of a company that has convinced themselves there are no problems. “All is well,” they believe, when all the while, everyone else in the company is bailing water in order to save the ship. Leaders must be objective and surround themselves with trusted colleagues who will tell them the truth. There is no such thing as a company with empty “Weaknesses” and “Threats” quadrants in their SWOT analysis.

It would be wonderful to live in a perfect world, but since humans aren’t perfect, we’re never going to create the perfect world or a perfect company. The mistakes are not the problem – it’s how we choose to respond to them that either makes us or breaks us.