Cartoons and Business

Having finished my MBA, I am now looking for a job. This, in turn, has led to some watching of daytime television during meals. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed watching cartoons, and it is no different these days. However, I have noticed new business subtexts in some of these cartoons, whether intentional or not.

Spongebob Squarepants

Spongebob Squarepants

Spongebob Squarepants is particularly rich in business lessons, two examples of which I shall outline below.

  1. The Krusty Krab Company Culture

    In the cartoon, the main character, Spongebob, works in a fast food outlet called the Krusty Krab. He loves the work and lives for being the best at flipping burgers and for the extra work that his boss, Mr. Krabs, demands from him.Mr. Krabs drives the business by the bottom line, always on the look out for profit, but he understands the importance of giving customers what they want. Spongebob buys into this philosophy wholeheartedly, and is a very satisfied employee, routinely going above and beyond for the good of the customer.

    Squidward, on the other hand, is the other employee at the Krusty Krab. He only works there because he has to, and he does not buy into the customer service philosophy. In fact, Squidward routinely wishes that he would be fired, allowing him to move on and fulfil his dream of being a famous and respected clarinet player. He does not care about the organisation, nor does he care what happens to it. The minimal work he puts in for his job reflects this lack of commitment.

    Business Lesson Bit

    These dynamics highlight the importance of fitting with a company’s culture. If one does not fit with the culture, one is going to feel demotivated and work only the hours that one must.

    If, however, one is a perfect fit for an organisation’s culture, then one will be motivated to work above and beyond, contributing 110% to the “cause”. I can’t help thinking that, were Mr. Krabs to address Squidward’s lust for the clarinet by, for example, providing him with training or a gig at the restaurant, then Squidward would also be a more motivated employee, buying into the company’s customer-focused ethos.


  2. Sandy Cheeks and Customer Needs Identification

    Sandy Cheeks is a squirrel that lives in an air bubble dome at the bottom of the sea. She is an inventor and scientist, always coming up with new gadgets. In one episode, we see that her bosses are simians when they come to run an inspection on her progress.

    Sandy Cheeks

    Sandy Cheeks

    None of the inventions that she shows them are (in their eyes) impressive. They would all be very useful for a human’s day-to-day life, and certainly impress the other residents of Bikini Bottom (the name of Spongebob’s town), but they do not address any of her bosses’ needs.

    Just after Sandy’s bosses have decided to shut down her dome for cost reasons, Spongebob and Patrick find a forgotten-about invention – a gadget that peels bananas. The simians are enthralled by this, and immediately agree to continue funding Sandy’s venture at the bottom of the ocean.

    Business Lesson Bit

    This is a common occurrence in everyday business, especially in startup companies, where the inventor sees huge utility in a gadget, but neglects to find out if it addresses any real consumer needs. A moral might be that, if other people aren’t as excited about your business idea as you are, the business plan might need to be changed.

    Remember: no plan survives first contact and ideas cannot be precious (especially first ideas).

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