I love the Academy Awards. As a movie fan, it is an amazing annual showcase of the stars and talent that go into a craft I still find magical. I’ve even run an annual Oscar pool to get friends and family to join in trying to predict the winners. Lately though, I’ve begun thinking about how the Academy Award winners are chosen can offer insight into how people wield their influence.

I call it the Rule of Oscar, and my rationale goes like this:

To judge one piece of art against another is impossible. Plain and simple. How can you honestly compare a silent film against a baseball business tale? You cannot. So at it’s heart, we must first admit that what the Academy voters are basing their decisions upon are not rational comparisons between films, but on something else.

Now, we must also realize that the films and people nominated for Academy Awards have reached a certain pinnacle. Many movies are better than others. Certainly it is possible to say The Artist is a better film than Transformers 3, but can you also definitively claim it is better than Moneyball? No. You can point out the differences between high quality films that you find more appealing, but it is not possible to say one is absolutely better than the other.

So if we accept that art at the Academy Awards nomination level is not discernible, and then that Oscar votes are not due to a rational value judgment based on the film’s merits, what do Academy voters judge?

Everything else. The stories behind the films. The history of the people involved. Popularity. Whether or not someone is ‘overdue.’ Is the actor nice to others? And perhaps most importantly, how that movie ‘made you feel.’

Take The Artist. It’s a great story told imaginatively. But what really earned it the votes for the Oscars is what it represents. That movie is perceived as a bold risk, the kind most academy voters still aspire to create. To make a silent film in today’s moviemaking business puts its actors, directors and everyone involved on a pedestal amongst peers.

Whenever I try to get people to play my Oscar games and predict winners, they immediately tell me they haven’t seen enough of the nominated films.

The truth is, that is a benefit to predicting, not a hindrance. Most people will vote for the films they have seen, because they have such a strong emotional connection with those films, despite other signs about the film’s perception that indicate another film would clearly win. I rarely have the time these days to see more than a couple best picture nominees in time for the show, but I consistently score in the upper third of my pool.

So what’s the Rule of Oscar for organizations? At a certain point, your film, your product, your service, will no longer be judged by rational terms. Whether it is a smartphone or a bottle of water, your voters will choose it irrationally, based on the story they create around the product. This story is based on a myriad of little factors that are difficult to quantify, ranging from what they have heard about the company behind it, the people making it or using it, and if they’ve had the chance to touch – and be touched by it in return.

I’ve learned from Oscar to stop trying to convince voters that one product is better than the next guy’s. It’s time to start convincing them that the story around the product¬† is better than them all.

Image courtesy of cliff1066TM.

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