The Heisenberg Rules: What HR Can Learn from Breaking Bad (#3 - Innovation, Sales and Operations are Equal)
Capitalist Note - I finally got around to binge-watching the former AMC hit Breaking Bad on Netflix, which follows high school chemistry teacher Walter White's journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and his subsequent turn to becoming a world-class meth producer. This series (The Heisenberg Rules) represents what I was reminded of as a HR leader by Breaking Bad. If you haven't seen the series, you can view a synopsis by clicking here. Spoilers abound in this series.
On a simple level, the basic premise of Breaking Bad is that Walter White, a small-time chemistry teacher, can emerge as one of the biggest meth producers in the United States. Walter's creativity in producing quality meth is without peer.
But the vast majority of Walter White's problems as the series unfold are related to the fact that his creativity isn't enough.
It's one thing to be innovative and create something unique. It's another thing to deal with the business side of getting that idea to the masses. Skinny Pete and Badger weren't enough to get it done.
That's why Rule #3 in the Heisenberg Rules is INNOVATION, SALES & OPERATIONS ARE EQUAL.
Walter White found out that distribution in the drug trade is a huge deal. In order to make enough money to pay for his cancer treatments, he's under constant pressure to sell more and find new and bigger channels of distribution. That leads him throughout the series to some interesting partners, most of whom are pathological killers who don't have Walter's knowledge or mode of innovation in the meth business.
BUT - and there is a but - they have something that Walter can't touch. They've maimed, murdered and intimidated enough people to hold clear distribution rights in territories that Walter needs access to.
All of Walter's Sales/Distribution partners in series (Think Tuco, Gustavo and the neo-Nazi's) have distribution channels that Walter doesn't have. Think of that as sales. They're also willing to slog through the murders and collections that go with the trade. Think of that as Operations.
They have sales and ops. Walter doesn't, so in order to make his meth production as profitable as possible, he has to do business with them. As a result, his risk goes up exponentially.
At the same time, hard core criminals like Tuco and Gustavo have never seen a product like Walter's. They can't do it on their own. They NEED his creativity and innovation to maximize their profits.
Along the way, we learn how much our own businesses have in common with the Meth trade.
It's not enough to have a great idea or even have morphed that idea into a great product. You still have to sell it, and you have to have the operational discipline needed to collect money and deal with the 1,000 other issues necessary to keep the operation going.
In Breaking Bad, the idea guy needed sales and business ops. The sales and biz ops guys needed the best product in order to put their machine to work. Without all three of these components, you can't maximize your business results. Take one of three out of the mix and you've got nothing.
Sounds like another day at the office to me. Except my partners don't have a regional network of fried chicken stores serving as a front for their real business.