Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / JUL. 24, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Three Workplace Lessons Learned from the 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

There’s no doubt that the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” has become one of those must see summer blockbusters. Todd McCarthy, the Hollywood Reporter’s film critic, said “the annals of sequels, Dawn is to Rise of the Planet of the Apes what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars - it’s that much better."

For those of you who have checked it out, you - like everyone else - probably focused more on how realistic the apes were and how far movie magic has come from the original 60s and 70s movies. By watching just a little bit closer, you could have clearly identified some of the key roles you and your coworkers play at work. For example, there were a lot of hidden messages in the movie about the importance of leadership, teamwork and collaboration. Here we will examine each and explain why those qualities are critical to an efficient, effective and productive work environment.


In the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” leadership and what makes an effective one was one of the central themes of the movie. The sequel to the “Rise of the Planet of Apes” continues with Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, taking on the role of leader over the ape nation that he created in a forest-like utopia. By all accounts, he was, in fact, a great leader who had successfully elevated his team from the human-imposed captivity of part one. As an ape, Caesar was naturally aggressive. But as a leader, he was confident, straightforward and trustworthy. Most importantly, he had great communication and interpersonal skills, and a sense of humor. Throughout the movie, you even saw Caesar out in the trenches working side-by-side with his team to accomplish a variety of tasks all geared toward the betterment of the all. According to Forbes, these are the basic virtues that all of the “greats” possess.

“ … There is no greater motivation than seeing the boss down in the trenches working alongside everyone else, showing that hard work is being done on every level,” said Tanya Prive, Forbes’ contributor and co-founder of RockThePost, an equity crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs. “By proving your commitment to the brand and your role, you will not only earn the respect of your team, but will also instill that same hardworking energy among your staff.”

(Note: Spoiler alert) There also was Koba, played by Toby Kebbell, who was the complete opposite of Caesar. This became evident after he literally stabbed his boss in the back and seized control. Soon after assuming the leadership role, Koba becomes a demanding, pushy, vicious liar who leads the band of apes by using terror. The issue with Koba was that he spent his entire life as test-subject for humans, which naturally led to the fear and distrust of the entire race. The problem, however, is that leaders who use scare tactics rarely earn or deserve the respect and loyalty of their team. And fear eventually leads to mutiny as it did in the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” So what kind of leader are you and what impact does it have on your team’s productivity?


The next dominating quality in the movie was about how individuals who successfully work together can produce greater results than working alone. Like the group of apes, the remaining humans in the movie became a great example of what can be accomplished through teamwork. After surviving a destructive virus, they were able, through a variety of tasks, to successfully work as a team to rebuild and establish a new colony in the post-apocalyptic world.

Needless to say, their survival and future depended on teamwork, which is much like the workplace. So why is teamwork important in the workplace? According to, it’s important because it strengthens the work of each individual and the end result is better than any individual contributions. However, working as a member of a team can and will be difficult at times. The important thing for you to remember is that through teamwork, more effective ideas are generated, the work is accomplished more efficiently and it gives everyone an opportunity to shine. In addition, it fosters fellowship among the team, which is always a good thing in workplace.


Back in the forest, the apes also worked great together as a team. (note: Spoiler alert) In the scene when they were out hunting for elk, Koba defends Caesar and Blue Eyes from a grizzly bear. Then Blue Eyes’ best friend, Ash, was shot by one of the humans. In the next scene, Caesar collaborates with his fellow apes in order to decide what to do about the humans. The point here is that Caesar, again, was an effective leader because he created an environment where everyone worked together as a team; but also where everyone could be and was heard. In other words, he truly valued the opinions of the other apes, especially the council of Maurice.

“The old ‘two heads are better’ adage is true, as long as the team’s expectations are clear,” said University of Phoenix School of Business Professor and author of ’The Leader of Oz, Revealing the 101 Secrets of Marvelous Leadership for the 21 Century’ Kevin Gazzara.  "… After 30 years in business, I’ve seen collaboration offer a faster time to market for products and services because you’re leveraging everyone’s knowledge and effort.”

Gazzara added that collaboration is important in the workplace because it releases hidden talent and goes beyond individual responsibility. Another benefit is the development of “cross-functional skills, such critical thinking and negotiation”. For example, if you have to work on a project that involves the marketing or human resources departments, you will have an opportunity to develop additional skills through interdepartmental collaboration.

The Emergence of the Workplace

Beyond the messages about war and peace, the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” delivers a buffet of important workplace qualities that run concurrently in the midst of a really good, action-packed sci-fi thriller. The movie, which is truly a must see for those interested in who will eventually rule the planet, also is required viewing for those interested in creating and contributing to a better workplace through leadership, teamwork and collaboration. The benefits are a more efficient, effective and productive work environment, which ultimately leads to your individual success as well as the success of the company.


’Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’: What the Critics Are Saying

Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader


Does Your Business Leadership Style Rely on Fear?

Why is Teamwork Important?

The Importance of Teamwork

10 Traits of Highly Productive People 

5 benefits of workplace collaboration

Image source: Rise of the Domesticated Ape


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