Just before New Year’s Eve, I dashed to Maine to watch the private premier of the film Incredibly Loud and Dangerously Close.
The film’s scheduled for national release on January 20th, but I got my exclusive sneak peak courtesy of my friend, Alex Libby, who helped director, Stephen Daldry, do research for the film by speaking with September 11 survivors.
After warming up in the Freeport movie theatre, the lights dimmed and the audience watched 10-year-old Oskar Schell—portrayed by up-and-coming actor Thomas Horn—capture what it means to be interconnected in a father-son relationship. Tom Hanks portrays Oskar’s father, who is killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City.
As my wife Shannon and I watched the multiple plotlines unfold, my son, Alex, came to mind and I thought, how is it that interconnections in family are both incredibly loud and often dangerously unclose?
Systems approaches to organizations seem clinical at times. As organizational consultants we strive to “serve” the company, the CEO, and the mission. But what about our first organization—our homes? Where do the people in it—our family members—stand as stakeholders? How complex are the systems we create around those stakeholders? Do we know the systems that promote human sensitivity?
We seem to proclaim that people matter at home and at work. The incentives to promote humanness among team members at work seem crystal clear yet they often give way to humanness at home. Hanks and Horn are gelled by a system of reconnaissance—an often goofy yet loosely reality-based escape of learning about New York City the way an anthropologist-researcher might. Their engagement driven by learning was both mutual and joyful.
So I started thinking what systems might we offer that play to a person’s gifts in our home lives? How creative can we be as fathers and mothers to serve our children in their developing worlds? You see, Oskar Schell was a fearful boy whose obsessions and curiosities were drawn into the system of exploring that his father crafted for him. Where has all our parental creativity gone these days anyway?
The CEOs and COOs of American households are the fathers, mothers, and parental units that drive engagement—a duty we often seem to forget. Without giving away the movie’s secrets, I’ll wrap up this post with one final, shameless, systems “plug” and use Chip Conley’s Emotional Equation, Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success as inspiration to punctuate my point. Family engagement needs an equation much like despair, grief, happiness and joy, and here it is:
Family Love and Unity = Engagement x Gifts x Time
Oskar’s despair was a function of the love he felt thanks to his father’s engagement with their mutual gifts over time.
In our lives, we all seem to strive for love—both giving and receiving it. We can get to love through engagement via systems of gifts—or unique people offerings—over time.
You can add systems to “get to” engagement. You know your gifts and the others around you. But beware: You simply don’t have control over time.
Daldry’s film reawakened my personal awareness toward the one factor that contributes to family love and unit that I can’t control so easily: Time.