RoboCop: An Emotional Intelligence Case Study

RoboCop © 2014 (directed by Jose Padilh), is set in 2028; a time when peacekeeping machines are globally accepted except in America. Since Americans want peacekeepers driven by human emotions, empathy and ethics, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), gives customers what they want, “We need to give Americans a figure they can rally behind; we’re going to put a man inside a machine.”


Before being turned into RoboCop, we see Alex Murphy [Joel Kinnaman] as an individual who confidently expresses his emotions.  Murphy is a protective and caring police officer and an expressively playful and loving husband / father.

Post transformation into RoboCop, Americans seem to have what they’ve asked for. Unfortunately in order to make RoboCop as efficient as possible, OmniCorp overrides Alex Murphy’s human instincts to respond to programmed input / directions rather than his emotionally charged human responses. OmniCorp creates “the illusion of free will” within Murphy / RoboCop.

From a business perspective, we sadly see that in the name of efficiency (and profit margins), OmniCorp is willing to jeopardize their long-term profitability; putting their brand reputation and customer / employee trust at risk. Their good will is on the line.

Ironically OmniCorp is a progressive technology company that mistakenly tries to create efficiency the same way Henry Ford did – when efficiency was equal to linear, structured production. That worked well close to 100 years ago but it doesn’t work as well anymore.  

It’s not a far stretch to find the message that a programmed – linear RoboCop was not the right solution. If 2028 is anything like 2014, in order to response to customer and employee demands, todays successful businesses have to be trusting corporate citizens that can also quickly respond to changing customer and employee needs.

OmniCorp overlooks what many organizations overlook today…
Where people are concerned, many things can’t be pre-programmed.

RoboCop / Murphy’s emotions cannot be suppressed – they breakdown his programming. Just like in every work environment, human emotions override programming and the result is almost always better when organizations pay attention the creative emotionally intelligent, human possibility. As the RoboCop scientist / engineer character Norton (Gary Oldman) says, “The human elements will always be present; compassion, fear, instinct will always interfere with the system.”  Nobody can leave their feelings at home – they can not be ‘programmed‘ out – they always come to work with us.

In actual movie reviews (Variety, Feb 5, 2014) Guy Lodge has written “Joshua Zetumer’s script cleverly reshapes the psychological quest of the original film to fit a 21st-century American culture arguably more preoccupied with emotional intelligence than it was in the late Reagan era.”  From what I’ve seen in trailers, I agree fully with Lodge.

RoboCop Trailer #1

Movie Trailer #1

RoboCop of 2014 is strongly supported by emotional intelligence and I would go as far to say also supported by the growing popularity of Mindfulness – where empathy, mutual respect and emotional intelligence are pillars of interpersonal communication and cooperation.

Imagine work being easier. Imagine work being more productive.

Happy communicating.

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RoboCop © 2014 Copy write: Columbia Pictures (Sony), MGM: Producers Eric Newman and Marc Abraham.

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

One Response to RoboCop: An Emotional Intelligence Case Study

  1. Totally agree with this, and I would add that the reduction to work to programmatic tasks alone can stifle innovation in processes and systems that may, in fact, lead to greater efficiencies for a company and a higher level of staff satisfaction and “buy in” to the work they are doing.

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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