First Thoughts: Success Orientations in the movies

I love observing human behavior and trying to figure out why people do the things they do. Maybe it is because I find the contrast between the logic of science and the seeming illogic of human behavior so fascinating. I use the word “seeming” because once you dig a bit deeper into human behavior there is almost always some sort of clever logic going on, even if it is based on shaky foundations.

So when I see a TV show or movie that makes me tilt my head like a dog does when he is trying to figure something out, I delight in digging deeper to see how the script writer and director worked to put together certain behaviors.

A delightful case in point is a new series running on the SciFi channel this summer called “Eureka“. The setting is the Pacific Northwest in a town full of scientists gathered by the U.S. government. The environment and the government installation where most of them work is top secret and high security. Due to the off-the-wall nature of some of the scientists and their creations, the scene is set for strange and interesting drama. I chose this one series out of zillions of examples because part of it was filmed where I live – so it hits close to home, so to speak.

What is particularly interesting is the characters emerging and how they fit the success orientations model so perfectly. Here are a couple of examples:

First is the new Sheriff Carter, scripted to be a primary goal and secondary process oriented lawman. This is the typical old-west Sheriff updated to the 21st century – get to the heart of the crime even if it will kill you (goal orientation), do so within the bounds of the law and due process if you can (secondary process orientation) and relationships can just go and hang themselves. In the series he is divorced from his wife and at odds with his daughter, who has barely seen him since birth since he works all the time achieving goals.

The not-so-normal sidekick to the Sheriff is an extreme process oriented deputy named Jo, played by an ex-military, gun-loving toughie. Jo is so process oriented that she cleans her guns constantly, and uses the want ads to find a date, allowing the Sheriff’s daughter to help her sort out the illogic of matchmaking. When at odds with the Sheriff, she uses processes to keep him from achieving his goals as in the 4th episode when he wants access to cool sci-fi weaponry but she won’t let him until he passes a knowledge test. Besides being “relationship challenged” goals are secondary to her process orientation. When the phone rings she waits for the Sheriff to answer it, regardless of how long it rings, again struggling with him in the establishment of process dominance. Process oriented people love controlling the processes to be sure they achieve success. Jo was at odds because the normal promotion process didn’t pay off: She was passed over for promotion to Sheriff. Perhaps it wasn’t because she couldn’t shoot a gun but because she was so grossly weak in terms of relationships!

When authority figures come into contact with the public in the daily completion of their duties they have to have some relationship orientations skills at the very least but at best can use all three orientations well. This balanced individual is typically extremely effective at their job.

Our media is packed with examples of different orientation mixes playing themselves out. Good script writers put different mixes at odds with each other for the purposes of conflict, drama, love, and comedy.

OK, a promise to myself: I won’t start to dissect everything I watch. BORING. Just enjoy some of them, like the new Battlestar Galactica series where the really goal oriented Commander Adama is at odds with his relationship-starved son…