Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gung Ho, the Movie

It was the Paramount Picture movie released on March 1986. Director was Ron Howard. It was starring Michael Keaton, as an American Car Maker Liaison and Gedde Watanabe, as his Japanese counterpart. This is one of those movies that one can enjoy watching over and over again. When a Japanese car company buys an American automobile manufacturer, the American liaison and his Japanese counterpart must mediate the clash of work attitudes between the foreign management and local labor. In the process of mediating the clashes, they started to build understanding and friendship.

It is a comedy movie. There were exaggerations and fictions. The audience, however, can still clearly sees the cultural differences and strengthen the understandings. A local auto manufacturer in Mid-West, USA was in financial trouble. They needed someone who could help to rebuild the company. They held union meeting and decided to send Michael Keaton to a Japanese car maker to request to take over the company and play the role of "White Knight" for this US Auto maker. He went to Japan and succeeded in bringing Japanese management staff to US. Gedde Watanabe, a young management candidate, was the head of Japanese team.

There were lots of funny scenes in this movie. First one was the name of this Japanese car maker. It was "Assan Motors". The film showed even Japanese-Chinese Character of this company name. It meant "Pressured Miserably Motors". There were lots of misunderstandings due to the language difference and cultural difference. A Japanese secretary was typing when Michael Keaton came into the office. He asked the woman: "What are you cooking?" The woman answered: "I am not cooking. I am typing."

When Michael Keaton and Gedde Watanabe were arguing in their office, Watanabe started to climb to his office chair and to his desk. He, being an Asian, was shorter than his American counterpart. He did not like his American friend kept looking down from higher position. Keaton also climbed to a chair and desk. When Watanabe declared that Michael would be fired, he fell from the top of the office desk.

After misunderstandings and fights, they started to understand the other party's position and support their counterparts. They inevitably made the enemy of their own side. They worked hard to convince their own side, American Union member and Japanese team. Watanabe's boss flew from Japan and gave both of them a difficult target. American workers and Japanese team finally worked together to accomplish this difficult target.

Trying not to go into too much detail so that readers can enjoy watching this movie, this movie teaches the following 3 lessons:

1. There will be misunderstandings and fights when people from different cultural background, cross-cultural people, work together.
2. Cross-cultural people can work together if they do not give up trying to work together.
3. The key to be successful in cross-cultural relationship is to think about their counterpart, not just your side.

My American Boss used to say to me: "You need to turn the table around and think in your counterpart's position." He taught me that cross-cultural people should enjoy the difference.

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