The Imitation of the Greatest Game

Benedict did a great job portraying Alan Turing.

I am embarrassed to note that it took me far too long to get in front of “The Imitation Game”. As Vinnie Jones would say: “It‘s been emotional”, and I dare say that it is a must see for many.

The story has the magical touch of speaking to you on many levels. It targeted me in specific ways (computing, startups, small teams) as well as the general humanism.

This is entertainment based on history, but you need to take much of the detail with a grain of salt. Don’t let that stop you getting much of out this movie.

Imagine the balls

A professor comes in with a crazy plan to solve a problem in a totally outlandish way. It costs a fortune, and the ask is at a time when the country needs all the resources they can get.

You can’t help but wonder: how persuasive was he? how much of it was desperation?

He was able to gather a small product team with full autonomy. The bean counters gave him a time line to show value and left him to execute. Sounds kinda like a startup doesn’t it?

He also had to deal with personalities who could have easily caused the downfall of the project:

Dealing with the corporate overlords

The navy boss didn’t like him at all which reminded you that he is trying to do all of this within a large organization, similar to having a small team within a large company.

Building trust with your team

His team has little reason to trust him at the beginning. How do you build trust when you start a new job? You build relationships and you get some early wins.

The movie portrays him as socially awkward (some argue that wasn’t fair), and his methods were truly bleeding edge. On a normal project you can show progress in bite sized chunks. For this mission you need to show “yup! it works! we cracked the code!

In reality there were more steps along the way, and the team around him was:

  • much larger than shown in the movie (you need to build characters)
  • incredibly smart, and could get into the details so it wasn’t a black box to them.

But still.

Imagine the stress

People dying every minute. A world war. Time running out. People not believing in you. Keeping secrets.

To succeed despite all of those factors show you how powerful the human mind can be, especially when there is a single minded focus and belief that you can do this.

Then once you solve the puzzle you know that this is only the beginning. You hit a home run, but now you need to stay calm and hold on for dear life (like dealing with hyper growth?). Getting all of the intel and making the strategic moves that help you win the war but without giving it away that you know? Take that Game of Thrones, or House of Cards characters.

I also find it fascinating that he was a very long distance runner, an activity known for great stress relief. I jump to the conclusion that he had the insight that we are all free falling, so don’t waste time screaming, breathe and solve. Easier said than done!

There are so many parallels to life at a startup. And as an investor you have people coming to you on a daily basis thinking that they can pull off the impossible. Some of them could be right. Would you be able to pick the Alan Turings?

Heroes

It took until 2013 for the Queen to pardon him after we treated him in such a disgraceful manner. He needs to be knighted. He is a true hero in every sense of the word.

If you haven’t seen this movie I can’t recommend it enough. Then read about him. You will feel all kinds of emotion and I think that you will be able to harness the parts that make you angry to power the passion to do something amazing in your world.

I doth my cap to you, Sir Alan. Without you I may not be here, and in 2015 you have managed to fire me up. I don’t think that phrases such as “I am grateful” can come anywhere close.

I will try to imitate your vision by playing this game with as much love as possible.

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