But my favorite mistake happened two years ago, when I had the opportunity to buy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Two friends in London told me there was a book they loved. I read the book and thought it was great. Then I heard they were making a movie out of it. I got the people to show us the movie to see whether we’d want to distribute it in the United States, and everything about it in my gut said, “Do this—there’s a franchise here.” But my team said, ‘No, we should focus on bigger movies,’ and I let the committee overwhelm me. I didn’t listen to my very significant gut, and when I say significant, I mean size, geographically. And that was a big bloody mistake—an economic mistake, a company mistake. If you’re going to be in the business we are, it has to be because you want to champion movies that are different. This year, we got The King’s Speech, Blue Valentine, Company Men, and part of The Fighter. Small movies are intensive, but they’re so worth it. It’s what we have to do to be who we are.
Now I have to say that this is a particular type of mistake story that may not be the most instructive. As I read it, Harvey's mistake was listening to his committee. In his eyes, he would have been better served ignoring their advice and buying the movie anyway. I guess this is the deepest personal reflection you can expect from a Hollywood mogul.
I wonder if there wasn't a different mistake here: perhaps he wasn't able to articulate his love and passion for the project clearly enough to convince his committee to change its decision. I think of the neat arguments of John Kotter in his new book "Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down" (here's a summary of one of the arguments)- perhaps some of them would have been useful to Harvey in this situation.