Profs Name Favorite Movies For MBAs

Gung Ho

The Story: Let’s step back to the 1980s, shall we? Remember how people worried that Americans would be working for more efficient and quality-driven Japanese firms? That was the premise behind Gung Ho, a 1986 comedic romp starring Michael Keaton. In the movie, a Japanese conglomerate re-opens a shuttered auto plant with the hopes of implementing its successful model in a small town Americana. Sounds great on paper, right? Well, just wait until you see the cultures clashes! True to form, American workers refuse to buy into the approach, which includes morning calisthenics, rigorous quality control, and high production requirements. At the same time, Japanese executives are dismayed by what they perceive as lax work ethics and company loyalty from their American counterparts. Eventually, the plant foreman and a Japanese executive forge a partnership that leads to greater cooperation between management and labor. The lesson: Any intercultural partnership is sure to produce misunderstandings and clashes. Bridging the gap means setting expectations and making compromises that send clear messages at every level.

Professor Says: Gung Ho takes a Hollywood fun approach to vividly highlight cross-cultural dynamics and differences. A must-see movie for expatriate managers before departing for their overseas assignments!”

– Dong Liu, Georgia Tech (Scheller)


Looking for more? Here are some additional responses from our 40 Under 40 winners:

Thomas Crown Affair — Always expect your competitor to surprise you!”

– Pinar Ozcan, Warwick Business School

The Big Short. The lesson is that we must pay attention to firms and managers’ incentives – they can have huge consequences on the economy.”

– Marina Halac, Columbia Business School

“I show scenes from “Barbarians at the Gate” in class. The movie effectively illustrates how debt can be an asset.”

– David Matsa, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. It is a political movie with inspiring content. It shows how a person can overcome deep adversity and ultimately become extremely successful in bringing about positive change in society.”

– Sebastian Schuh, CEIBS

Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street, and the lesson is to not be tempted to sell your integrity. If Office Space counts as a business-theme movie, then I’d include that one, too.

–  Mike Simutin, University of Toronto (Rotman)

The Princess Bride has a great game theory scene in which the main character, Wesley, challenges the villain Vizzini to a game of wits, with the prize being the princess. In the game, Wesley takes two goblets of wine and tells Vizzini that he’s poured poison into one of them; Vizzini must pick a goblet to drink from and then Wesley will drink from the other. As Vizzini describes in his monologue, the optimal strategy for selecting the un-poisoned goblet depends on his expectation of Wesley’s strategy for arranging the goblets, which itself depends on Wesley’s expectation of Vizzini’s optimal strategy for choosing a goblet, and so on and so forth. It’s a good example of how to think strategically by anticipating your opponent’s best move. In the end, Wesley actually puts poison in both goblets because he’s built up an immunity to its effects, guaranteeing himself victory regardless of which one Vizzini ultimately chooses. I guess the real lesson here is that sometimes in business it’s better to “change the game” to secure an advantage rather than leave your success up to chance.”

– Ryan McDevitt, Duke University (Fuqua)

“I highly recommend a Bollywood movie, Lagaan (2001), that is already being used in many B-schools for its insights on leadership, resource utilization, and team building. Among Western movies, I recommend The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) for vividly highlighting the importance of discipline in executing ideas.”

– Alok R. Saboo, Georgia State University

. This classic film to me depicts how a professional’s attempt to navigate a chaotic creative project intertwines with the exploration of emotions and meanings in life. A key lesson could be the importance of acquiring diverse perspectives when managing one’s life and career.”

– Ning Su, Ivey Business School

DON’T MISS: 10 Movies Every Business Student Should Watch OR Best Business Movies of 2015

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