Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to Handle the Punchline

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at the plans of comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at a more complicated situation involving Alexander Luthor Jr. (an alternate universe version of Lex Luthor) and his plans in the DC Comic crossover Infinite Crisis. He assembles an extremely large and powerful group of super villains, ranging from A-list material like Deathstroke the Terminator all the way down to D-list cannon fodder, into a group known as The Society to execute a plot to ostensibly erase the minds of the superheroes of the world.

The summary:

While assembling his Society, Alex Luthor went out of his way to extend invitations to just about every known and active super villain on the planet. Most of the few that refused him were summarily executed by those who did sign on in order to provide examples of the strength and power behind the Society, positioning them as a group to be reckoned with. That being said, one key villain was purposefully excluded from the proceedings: The Clown Prince of Crime called The Joker.

How is that a problem?:

The Joker is known for being a loose cannon, a generally unpredictable agent of chaos that most other super villains do not enjoy being around. While he may sign on, it is quite probable he would turn on the rest in short order. At the same time, he is also a top tier bad guy and it comes as no surprise that his involvement in this would solidify the Society as a mainstay player. Having all the biggest names from the best rogue’s galleries would be quite the coup. His purposeful exclusion from the gathering caused the Joker to consider this a deliberate slight on his part, prompting him to start killing his way through the ranks of the Society in order to rectify the situation. This could have been handled in a much better way if, in the planning stages, Alexander Luthor had done a proper stakeholder analysis.

What can stakeholder analysis have done for him?:

Let’s start by discussing what exactly it is and how it is done. Stakeholder analysis is a form of risk management, whereby you look at all the possible parties (people or groups) who might have an interest in play that your project will impact in some way. You determine who these parties are, what their particular interests are, sort them out to see how they will act in relation to your project. This is an expansion, and sometimes runs contrary to, the old method of shareholder analysis which limited the scope of interested parties to only those who have a direct financial investment in the project.

There are different ways of assessing and sorting the stakeholders, but I personally like the three dimensional ranking of Interest, Attitude, and Power:
-Interest: How much do they care about this project in terms of call to action? They can either be active or passive.
-Attitude: How do they feel about this project in terms of support? They can either support it or oppose it (neutrality can also come under the opposition banner).
-Power: How much can they actually do about this project (can come from expert credentials, being an influencer, etc…)? This binary is can be expressed as powerful or low power.
This gives you eight potential different labels for stakeholders, ranging from powerful/supportive/interested Saviors to low power/opposed (neutral)/passive Trip Wires.

Where does the Joker fall?:

Let’s break down the three categories for the Joker:
-Interest: The Joker is a super villain well known for liking to go up against superheroes. He sees these sorts of plots and gathering as a great party where he can do what he does best and he does love to do it, so he would certainly be active.
-Power: While not a super villain on the power level of Sinestro or Black Adam, the Joker brings a lot of influence to the table. He also wields power in different ways, particularly of the image he carries with him. He is high power.
-Attitude: The Joker’s attitude is supportive, since carrying it out would play well to his desires and his usual desire for mayhem.
Looking at these results, it would seem that the Joker would be a savior stakeholder, and the proper course of action here would be to pander to them and bring them on board to the project because they can be significant assets.

Where did Alex Luthor go wrong?:

Alex Luthor decided to let things get personal instead of professional. He allowed the personal dislike those of others in the Society, or his own attitude, towards the Joker’s chaotic and wild nature get in the way of making a good decision. Instead, he rejects the Joker and converts the Joker’s attitude from supportive to opposing and relabeling him under the stakeholder analysis as a Terrorist who would be actively engaged in order to defuse them. By continuing to ignore him and leaving him out of the fold, Alexander Luthor created one of his biggest problems.

Closing comments:

As mentioned above, the Joker is not the most powerful villain in terms of pure superpowers (having none). He is, however, one of the most impactful ones over the course of the history of the DC Universe by having killed Jason Todd, the second Robin, through beating him to death with a crowbar. He also paralyzed Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl and daughter of well-known supporting character Commissioner Gordon. While he does not follow structure too well, it would be far better to include him in the Society and make contingency plans to handle him if he goes off the rails. Instead, he killed his way through a number of Society members and, in the end, killed Alexander Luthor Jr. at the end of Infinite Crisis.

You made a lot of mistakes… [b]ut the biggest one? You didn’t let the Joker play.” –Lex Luthor (Infinite Crisis #7)

Final Rating: Bad business!

Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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