Cinemark has a few theaters that boast the “CineArts” themed features—participating theaters host lesser-known indie films alongside mainstream films. On one lazy afternoon in January 2015, we decided to visit and see a movie that we had previously heard literally NOTHING about—Whiplash.

When the house lights came on as the closing credits started to run, I instantly had my phone out and was researching this movie I had just seen: What in the world just happened? Why have I never heard of this movie? How is it possible that I’m so affected by an unknown variable like this?

It turns out that Whiplash’s weak initial release in October 2014 had suddenly picked up momentum due to 5 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, ultimately winning 3 Oscars), and our random, surprise viewing proved to be a peak experience—very rare in modern cinema.

Whiplash is a brutal, deep-dive exploration of the dynamics of personal and group excellence. Bullying and self-esteem, world-class talent development, and transcendence are themes that really got under my skin. It was difficult to watch, but beautifully developed and executed. The use of the soundtrack made the experience thrilling.

J.K. Simmons (The Accountant, Spider-Man trilogy) earned himself an Oscar for Actor in a Supporting Role playing Terence Fletcher—a top-level jazz conductor and instructor at an elite performing arts college in New York City. Fletcher proved to be a bit of an archetype—profoundly sure of his methods, and brutal in his emotional and mental manipulation of his students. (Warning—the R rating was 100% earned from Fletcher’s profanity and vicious verbal abuse—it is a well-earned rating, and the full effect of Fletcher’s character wouldn’t be understood without it.)

J.K. Simmons EARNED his Oscar in this role—he was awesome.

Miles Teller (Footloose) played Andrew Nieman, a freshman jazz drum student who earns the attention of Fletcher and is soon recruited into the school’s most elite jazz ensemble. Andrew aspires to be the best drummer of his generation—he is obsessed with his childhood idols and wants to emulate them.

As Fletcher begins his mentorship of Andrew, a sinister, emotionally abusive relationship begins to overwhelm Andrew. Fletcher randomly switches between intense praise and encouragement, with sudden, violent (physical and verbal) reactions to (real and imagined) mistakes aimed at the weakest members of the group. (Andrew’s social anxiety and inability to keep up with Fletcher’s mood swings is extremely uncomfortable to watch.) Fletcher plays games with his students, pitting them against each other (to create competition), and does it all with a calm assumption that it’s necessary to break down artists so that they can be properly built back up into perfection.

The film uses music as the reason for the plot—it’s also brilliantly captured and executed on screen. Make sure to watch this on a system with EXCELLENT sound quality—you’ll want that subwoofer tuned in properly. (Whiplash won Academy Awards for both Sound Mixing and Film Editing—it’s REALLY good.)

Abuse and bullying are painful subjects. They are real problems for most people—not only just for specific marginalized groups. Abuse occurs in casual and intimate relationships. It occurs in large organizations. It’s easy to condemn on the surface, but it’s often hard for the abuser to recognize in themselves. It affects all social groups, races, genders, and identities. It’s a real problem.

Whiplash takes an interesting approach to this subject—it’s explored both explicitly and implicitly. Fletcher assumes that intentional, calculated, and brutal methods are required to develop the best talent in his protégés. The individual artist will never have enough strength on their own, so his hubris justified his means—even when one of his previous “great ones” committed suicide due to emotional pressures that seemed to stem from Fletcher’s actions.

Whiplash does an incredible job of portraying the emotional storm that Andrew experiences. Although the title of the key musical piece in the film is “Whiplash”, the name also seems to suggest the emotional consequences of the manipulation and the abuse he experiences. Because he tries so hard to be the best student, the games and abuse trigger emotional confusion—the manic praise suddenly becoming a flying chair is truly terrifying and disturbing. Andrew’s quest for excellence was not a healthy experience.

Because of the timing of its release, Whiplash preceded the #MeToo movement, but its messages and methods are very inter-related with all abuse-of-power situations, regardless of the mechanism of abuse or the target demographic.

In business, abuse-related situations occur frequently—not just within organizations, but also between trading partners, contractors, vendors, and customer-service situations. While many companies seem to be focused on PR and legal posturing (while simultaneously conducting ethically-questionable activities), the best companies seem to focus on doing things the RIGHT way.

Competition based on free-market principles (without bullies) creates innovation, stable economies, and fair principles—everybody benefits. Competition based on bullying, abuse, and financial leverage/domination only serves parts of society—it’s ultimate unchecked end-game is literally war.

How to best protect your organization from bullies and abuse? Good information is essential!

One of the main goals of a good ERP system is to remove confusion—this is crucial for many reasons:

  • To compete, the best possible knowledge about your customers is required for strategic marketing, fulfillment, and customer satisfaction. If this information is not easily accessible to EVERY member of an organization, its usefulness is immediately diluted. Integration with all aspects of an ERP system is VERY important—a good ERP will have transparent boundaries between modules.
  • Inventory management (with all its facets) is impossible without fully integrated inventory, purchasing, and sales systems. Inventory costs are incredibly important, and optimization of all aspects of inventory can save money, increase critical stock availability, and increase agility—all important aspects of competition.
  • Using deep analytics and BI tools, many aspects of an organization’s transactional patterns become usable dossiers to predict demand and supply patterns as well as cost and pricing trends. Fully integrated solutions provide the best data for supporting a competitive advantage.
  • Financial Statements that allow full drill-down through transactions are key tools in fully and quickly understanding the financial impacts of every transaction throughout a business.
  • Excellent AP, AR, and Cash Flow tools allow for razor-sharp-accuracy in making sure the financial blood flow of your organization is fully visible, accessible, and predictable.

The best way to deal with bullies and abusive people is to remove confusion, eliminate barriers, and plan effective countermeasures. Some enemies can become friends—but relationship stability can only be based on good information, understanding, and agreement.

In Whiplash, Andrew grew his information and understanding, changed his approach, rolled with adversity, and overcame in dramatic fashion. (Rocky himself would have cheered.)

Good information makes everything easier—how can we help with improving your information picture?

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