Netflix's wildly popular show is a macabre whirlwind, but it also provides a glimpse into the importance of teamwork and why taking responsibility for others' well-being matters.
"Squid Game," Netflix's recently released, dystopian-tinged show, is a lot of things: among them, a snapshot of the grotesque side of contemporary life, a critique of how economic hardships can drive individuals to shun ethics and one that displays a scenario where the kid's game red light, green light could be potentially morbidly deployed when mask-wearing, illuminati-type figures are at the helm (and if you haven't seen the series, the latter reference will make sense—disturbingly so—after the first episode).
It is, in other words, dark stuff in a lot of ways—and yet, these themes, its story arc and plot twists within the show have resonated with viewers on a mass scale.
Released on Sept. 17 of this year and created by writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk, it's now the most popular show ever for the streaming service, according to its own admission. (Earlier this month Netflix claimed on Twitter that the series had already reached 111 million viewers.)
Without delving into spoilers, the basic premise is this: The nine-episode series based in South Korea tracks how a shady, secret society lures 456 down-on-their-luck individuals (or "players," as they begin to be called) to a remote island to participate in six competitions, with the end goal and promise being a payout of billions in South Korean currency—or roughly $38 million USD—if someone completes all the challenges.
SEE: You definitely don't want to play: Squid Game-themed malware is here (TechRepublic)
The situation that unfolds is often an abhorrent affair. But it's also a work of satire and a postmodern morality tale and as such, does point to teachable ideas (even ones IT leaders and workers can consider). Specifically, an underlying theme is an importance of being responsible for other people and why teamwork matters.
In a recent New York Times Q&A , the series' lead, Lee Jung-jae (who plays the character Seong Gi-hun—otherwise known as player 456), contends beneath all the disturbing matters that run through "Squid Game," the underlying message is one that speaks about the need for altruism.
As TechRepublic previously reported, IT leaders had to shift priorities and take on new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. One conception that emerged from the reporting was that IT professionals needed to adapt with the circumstances and spearhead helping others succeed (which, in a lot of ways, emerges as a mantra for the protagonist Gi-hun in "Squid Game").
"Outside of the normal day-to-day tasks, IT leaders are also being tasked with higher levels of collaboration and understanding other departments that they wouldn't traditionally be involved with," said Liz Beavers, head geek for the IT management software company SolarWinds. Likewise, in a lot of ways—weirdly—the players of the series (the ones who outlast others), learn to balance their daily routines while also understanding the importance of working with others—and understanding those not necessarily in your wheelhouse is better for everyone involved.
What's more, the show embraces the notion of nuance, which is a concept TechRepublic also recently covered. Specifically, the idea is that enterprise IT leaders shouldn't get confined to set ways of doing things and should instead focus on the particular needs of both employees and clients.
"Some of the best leaders are chameleons of sorts," wrote contributing writer Patrick Gray. He said that good leaders could change leadership styles "just as the lizard subtly changes its colors based on the environment."
And that becomes the case in the show. In a late episode of "Squid Game," participants partake in a lethal game of tug-of-war, where they are forced to choose ten teammates for the high-stakes engagement (one where they are chained to the rope). Jung-jae ends up assembling a team with those he trusts but also a group that is physically outmatched. And yet, Jung-jae's troupe—by working together—prevail via thinking outside the box and trusting one another)—all attributes that can make for a sound, smooth-running situation with co-workers in the tech world.
With all that said, though, TechRepublic does not recommend, endorse, advocate, etc. playing survival games in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter.
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