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5 Lessons for Startup Teams from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy; Marvel Studios website
Image credit: Guardians of the Galaxy; Marvel Studios website

Marvel fans around the world have been both delighted and broken hearted as the studio’s dearest series, Guardians of the Galaxy, came to an end in May, this year. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is revered as the best Marvel movie out there to this day, and we think it offers plenty of teamwork lessons that can help startups. Attention – spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you’d better save this one for an after-movie read.

#1 “Let’s go save our friend”

This one’s about team unity and how important it is to not leave any team member behind.

One of the main narratives of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the origin story of Rocket, the Raccoon-in-denial who is hit in the chest, quite literally, by the cruel past he once managed to escape. To everyone’s relief, he gets by with a “little” help from his friends. The guardians team does everything – and I mean everything on the verge of impossible – to save their friend’s life.

How would that play out in a business setting? Taking the drama away, we can still imagine the importance of having a united team where members truly care about each other on a personal level and have each other’s backs in moments of distress. When you work for 16 hours a day, 6 days a week next to these team members, pursuing an ambitious goal together, it’s not wild to say that they become a sort of an extended family. 

Groot; Unsplash
Groot; Unsplash

#2 “Today I saw who you are; you weren’t born to be a destroyer, you were born to be a dad”

It wouldn’t be a superhero movie without a mad scientist wanting to change the world. The High Evolutionary’s sacred mission to create the flawless society points out to the toxic culture of perfectionism. 

We see this sub-theme played out in the interaction between the Guardians, too, as Nebula – who, admittedly, started the series as a fearsome killer cyborg before becoming one of the heroes – is having a hard time accepting the unique personalities and abilities of her teammates. Instead, she constantly points to what she perceives as their weaknesses. 

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By the end of the movie, however, Nebula gets it: her team member’s vulnerabilities are also related to their biggest strengths. So, Dax the Destroyer, for instance, was actually more suited to be a protective figure, like a dad. And it’s in this difference between its members that the strength of the team really lies. 

Diversity and complementarity of backgrounds and abilities is also crucial in any team, but all the more in a small startup setting that needs to build a solid business with scarce resources.

#3 “You’re a good dog”

Cosmo; Marvel Studios website
Cosmo; Marvel Studios website

Aside from understanding and accepting each other’s unique markers, team members must encourage and uplift each other. We all need it, even if we say we don’t. 

Early in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we hear Kraglin playfully uttering to Cosmo, the mutated Soviet dog, that she is a bad dog. The ensuing quarrel between the two, where Cosmo demands that Kraglin retracts his words, is one of the fun-intended parts of the movie. By the end, we’re left a bit emotional when Cosmo uses her telekinesis abilities to help protect the people of Knowhere and Kraglin admits what we knew all along – that Cosmo is a good dog!

Teams could also be there to pick on something admirable about its members without those members being able to see it at first. 

In the Guardians of the Galaxy, we see beloved character Groot rescuing Adam because “everyone deserves a second chance”. Later on, Adam, feeling seen through this positive mirror, redeems himself by saving Quill and – surprise, surprise – becomes one of the new team of Guardians.

#4 “You make a better leader than I ever was, Captain”

Rocket Raccoon; Marvel Studios website
Rocket Raccoon; Marvel Studios website

Every team needs a captain, and fans are already saying we need a new series about the Guardian’s new leader, Rocket Raccoon.

So, what would make Rocket such a good team captain? It has a lot to do with his strategic mind, resourcefulness, and the importance he attaches to the Guardians family. Spice that up with tons of charm and you’ve got yourself the portrait of a promising leader, in both the Marvel universe and our own.

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As conveyed in his backstory, Rocket was blessed with a hyper-analytical mind, able to generate unique insights about the world and devise complex plans to reach an end goal. Throughout carrying out his plans, he’s endlessly resourceful, making smart use of his surroundings, exploiting every opportunity to get the advantage, and learning quickly how to deal in new situations. Finally, he’s forever attached to his team of Guardians, where he found the family and friends he always needed, and would now do anything to protect them and their cause. 

#5 “I’m going to need to take some time to learn how to swim”

Finally, there’s one lesson every startup team gets familiar with at some point: if a member needs to go to put himself first, let him. 

When Quill and Mantis decide to leave the Guardians and embark on a journey of self-discovery, everyone is supportive of their decisions. 

It goes without saying that, in parallel with the team’s journey, there’s an individual story unfolding and there may come a time when the team doesn’t serve the individual any longer.


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Antoanela is a Sustainability Communications Specialist and Deputy Editor at The Recursive media. From these roles, she is helping organizations communicate their latest sustainability goals, strategies, and technologies. She writes about climate tech, ESG, impact investment, sustainability regulation, and related topics.