Smart managers are always keen to ‘sharpen their saw’. They always remain alert to new ideas from all sides. Movies are no exception. These provide valuable inputs to managers at all levels – from green-behind-the-ear beginners to CEOs and owners.
Here is an update on the key take away lessons from some of the movies I am aware of: some from Kollywood, some from Hollywood and many others from Bollywood.
ENTERING THE CORPORATE JUNGLE
- Setting Realistic Goals (Manal Kayiru: A Rope/Thread of Sand)
Be Realistic, whether looking for a life partner or a job! The hero sets impossible conditions to be met while seeking a life partner. As a result, he gets conned into marrying a girl who is exactly the opposite.
In the arena of management, we work with customers, suppliers, employees, service providers and other stakeholders. It helps us to be realistic about what we want from them.
Be SMART: Goals should be Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound!
- Realigning Goals to our Passion (3 Idiots, Maya Kannadi: The Illusory Mirror)
Better alignment between inner self and outer self helps us to find joy at the work place. Money, status and power are a logical corollary.
We should excel at whatever we do – even if it is hair dressing! There is no merit in frittering away our energy in trying disparate things which we are not good at. Our life is in our own hands and we can shape it well.
- A Personal SWOT Analysis: Overcoming Weaknesses (Black)
Getting a committed and competent guide helps us to learn to overcome our weaknesses.
High involvement invariably leads to high commitment. This, in turn, leads to higher accomplishments in life.
We face negative energy in the shape of self-doubts which often plague us. By winning over these, we can achieve great things in life.
The protagonist is a deaf and blind girl. Her tutor gets afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease towards the climax.
The movie was inspired by the life and struggle of Helen Keller.
DOING WELL IN THE CORPORATE JUNGLE
- Putting First Things First (Iqbal)
The hero has a passion to excel. He motivates a reluctant coach to take him under his wings. The training methods are very primitive. At no stage does he dream of better facilities.
To play cricket for India is his dream. He works on it with the end in mind.
- Being Proactive (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: Run Milkha Run)
Milkha has a short-term affair with his coach’s granddaughter and ends up losing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He learns from this failure and goes on to win several medals for India in the 400m sprint slot.
Perseverance, hard work and a passion to succeed lead him to eventual success.
- Networking and Bonding (Dil Chhahta Hai: Do Your Thing, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: You Don’t Get to Live Twice)
Most work gets done in organizations based on informal networking and bonding.
The effectiveness of a better networked team is much higher, as it taps the potential of underground cable connections.
Bonding encourages lateral thinking within the group, thereby improving its productivity.
- Spotting the Potential of Individuals (Lagaan: Land Tax)
Team building involves a clear definition of diverse roles and the assigning of roles based on individual strengths. Overcoming regional and social biases, the hero motivates a group of villagers to form a team and beat the English rulers in a game of cricket, thereby leading to a waiver of taxes for a period of three years.
- Taking Good Care of People (Anbe Sivam: Love is God)
The conflict between a communist way of thinking and a capitalist one is brought out in this Kamal Hassan and R Madhavan flick very poignantly. Better management of people, the value of compassion and the need to minimize financial disparity is highlighted in the movie.
- Delegation by Micro-managing (Udaan: Flight)
An overpowering father bullies a son into accepting a career and lifestyle of his choice. The seeds of revolt sprout. How the hero, a 17-year-old teenager, overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to walk out of the home to lead a life free of humiliation and abuse forms the crux of the theme.
Aggressive bosses who tend to micromanage affairs in the name of delegation end up creating a team with very low self-esteem. This could affect the long-term plans of the organization.
- Delegation by Macro-managing (Sholay: The Embers)
In this case, the focus is on results, not on methods or means. The target – of capturing a dreaded dacoit – is clearly defined. The assignment is clearly accepted by two small time criminals who succeed in their mission, though one of them loses his life in the process.
- Sticking to Values (Jerry Maguire)
When Jerry gets disgusted with the unfair practices in a sports event management company, he chooses to come out with a Mission Statement: ‘The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business’. He goes on to build his own business as a sports agent and develops a very close relationship with his one of his clients, leading to eventual success.
- Leaving the Comfort Zone (Do Aankhen Barah Haath: Two Eyes, Twelve Hands)
Do Aankhen Barah Haath was based on a real life incident. A jailer proposes to handle six hardened criminals in an open jail, so as to reform them and return them to society as responsible citizens. The movie captured the spirit of innovation in solving a social problem. Lessons like empathic counseling, strict discipline and a fair and transparent system of reward and punishment are relevant for professionals who face white-collar crimes in today’s business world.
How the hero overcomes the initial disapproval and cynicism of his superiors in implementing a novel scheme of this nature teaches us to try to walk out of our comfort zones once in a while to scale new heights in our career.
- Crisis Management (The Burning Train, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Independence Day)
The causes for a crisis could be many – professional rivalry, an ego clash, or sheer chance. But what wins the day is Rather than trying to pass on the blame; a professional would adopt a rational attitude and take immediate steps to contain the damage. Cooperation, team work, level headedness and fleet footedness are the pre-requisites for success to be achieved.
In all the movies cited here, a deep commitment to save lives comes first. When faced by a do-or-die situation, new groups often get formed and assume a leadership role to tackle the crisis effectively.
- Strategy First, Execution Later (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
Implementing ruthlessly without understanding strategic implications could be injurious to the organization’s health!
The leader is ruthless in getting a group of prisoners of war to construct a railroad bridge during World War II. He believes in demonstrating British engineering skills to posterity even though, when completed, the bridge would help the Japanese troops. In a nutshell, the bridge is built, only to be destroyed when the first train passes through!
LORD OF THE JUNGLE
- Leadership (Norma Rae)
Based on the real life story of a wage earner in North Carolina, the movie captured the essence of labor unionization and the leadership qualities required to achieve the same. We learn that people follow us not necessarily because we are smarter or more knowledgeable; only because we are passionate and clear about what we set out to achieve.
- A Win/Win Strategy (Jodhaa Akbar)
Akbar, a Muslim Mughal Emperor, marries a proud Hindu Rajput princess, so as to forge strategic ties with smaller states which are otherwise resisting his expansion plans. The princess resents being used as a pawn in a political game and Akbar is fed by vested interests with negative inputs as to her real intentions. Eventually, they learn to respect and love each other.
When businesses merge, the birth pangs of the new business entity are experienced by all stakeholders. It is through cooperation, mutual trust, shared values and enlightened HR communication that the bonds become stronger, thereby giving the business a synergistic advantage.
- Failure is Not an Option (Apollo 13)
When the third manned mission to the Moon gets aborted due to a technical snag, the challenge before the NASA flight controllers is to get the three astronauts aboard back to Earth. With team work and an out of box approach, the crew manages to make a difficult but crucial course correction. The team lands safely.
When a boss decides not to take a ‘no’ as an answer, amazing results often come up. Human imagination and ingenuity, when pushed to its limits, truly knows no boundaries.
- Innovation in Business and Processes (Vicky Donor, Munna Bhai MBBS)
An unemployed youth – relentlessly chased by the owner of an infertility clinic – ends up becoming a sperm donor. The movie captures his trials and tribulations in a hilarious manner. Goes on to show that lot of new businesses can be conceived by being alert to the demand supply gaps in the society. By offering products/services designed to capture such gaps, new business verticals can be designed to tap the market potential.
For a hospital, an empathic touch is necessary to heal better is one of the clear messages of the Munna Bhai movie. Core service delivery – taking care of the sick and the infirm – cannot become secondary to procedures, systems and paperwork is another important message.
- Discovering Synergy (Chak De! India: Go, India!)
A hockey coach pulls off the impossible – by coaching and leading the Indian women’s field hockey national team to win the World Cup. There are regional, racial and ethnic biases to be overcome. There are ego clashes between players to be tackled. Players who keep their personal success above that of the team need to be counseled. Then there are issues of eve teasing and perceived sexual harassment which need to be addressed. The apathy and cynicism of the government regulatory officials needs to be overcome. He does all this and leads the team to an astounding win. He does so by seeking areas of agreement first, by building on strengths of individual players and by compensating for their weaknesses.
- The Leader Walks Alone (Elizabeth, Mughal-e-Azam)
The Queen gives up her romantic interests for the sake of a public life, rules England for 40 years; eventually learns to trust her own instincts
Likewise, a CEO has to set the bar very high and forsake quite a few mundane pleasures of life to lead the organization to rapid growth
It is always lonely at the top; concern for organization reigns supreme
Factors which can help: strong relationships, pragmatism, flexibility, meditation
SOME KEY ENABLERS
- Giving Back to Society (Thirumalai)
The hero is a motorbike mechanic. He ends up falling in love with a girl whose father is a rich businessman.
The father, not liking the match, hires local goons to kill the hero. Predictably, the hero survives.
In a key scene, he tells the father to behave himself and be straight and positive.
The key messages: Life is a circle: you reap what you sow; Discovering our Inner Voice.
- Helping the Community First (It’s a Wonderful Life)
The hero has given up on his dreams to help others and ends up committing suicide on a Christmas evening. His guardian angel shows him how he has made a difference to other’s lives and the community in general.
- Think Green (Wall-E, Erin Brockovich, Avatar)
All these movies have themes which are centered around the concept of sustainable living.
Caring for the environment and Mother Earth is the central message.
In Wall-E, it is a small plant which makes humans come back to inhabit earth.
Erin Brockovich is all about a legal clerk motivating a group of sufferers to stand up against a large company and get suitable compensation awarded by a court of law. It is based on a real life incident.
Avatar also champions the cause of protecting our environment.
THE REEL/REAL LIFE
In reel life, we empathize with a hero we admire. We readily fall for the grace and charms of a heroine and get infatuated by her. We love at least one doting parent. We come to hate rogue villains.
In real life, we look up to some seniors who become our role models. We fall for the charms of an organization whose image and brand equity we admire. We meet an experienced senior who guide us, much like a doting parent. All those who shoot down our plans appear to be rogue villains. In the process, they teach us to balance between divergent opinions and also help us to grow professionally.
While entering the reel life, we willingly suspend our sense of belief and logic, leaving our mind behind at the hall entrance. We simply get mesmerized for a period of two to three hours.
In some single owner driven companies, we learn to leave behind our ego and autonomy of thought at the office entrance itself. It is a reality check which sometimes lasts sixteen hours in a day. Thanks to technical gizmos and improved connectivity, it is well-nigh impossible to ‘switch off’ for the day!
- Making movies is a high-risk business. Thanks to the multiplex business model, innovation in themes appears to have picked up of late. In the realm of Hindi movies, think ‘A Wednesday’, ‘Bumm Bumm Bole’, ‘Barfi’, ‘Cheeni Kum’, ‘Dor’, ‘I am Kalaam’, ‘Lunchbox’, ‘Pa’, ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘Udaan’, ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’, etc.
- Movies are not only about entertainment. They are also about education, empowerment and enlightenment.
(To avoid an overlap between an earlier blog post and this one, the movies mentioned here differ from the ones cited earlier. Here is the link to the earlier one: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/management-lessons-from-movies.)
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