Management Lessons from Movies

Management Lessons observed in Top 3 Movies

Movies represent the creative genius and stupendous hard-work that goes into making a product, an Augmented Product, in fact.

Watching a Movie gives you an opportunity to forget about your problems or difficulties, and enter into a new realm of fiction to see and experience someone else's difficulties and problems. The good part about it is that there is a happy ending, almost in about all movies and this gives you the strength & hope to fight your own problems. 

Some Movies are so well-made and life-altering that they become a part of society and bring about drastic changes in how one perceives things. Like, "Taare Zameen Par" helped a lot to me in not getting scolded by my parents anymore, just kidding, they are awesome, but the movie was powerful indeed.

Before we begin, Would you be interested in a True Story?

I remember once when I was in my 3rd class, I happen to ask one of my teachers in school, "Do you watch movies?"  "Sometimes" came an abrupt reply, with a stare. 

The timing of the question was perhaps wrong, that it elicited such a reply. I was the one who was supposed to answer the questions as it is in an English viva and not the other way around. 

None the less after a few minutes, the bell rang and the teacher bid us Goodbye.

The childish curiosity of knowing how does a teacher, who appears boring, watch a movie, and bores us to hell in her lectures, was still nagging my head. 

With the contribution of my naiveness, I ran after her in the corridor,  and asked her again "Which movies do you watch ma'am and why? " 

I had already started to imagine some archaic movies in my head but to my astonishment, 
she replied:   "I watch almost all of them so that I and my son can learn, entertainment is also there but if a movie is without a lesson, I observe and try to find a lesson and that helps me in almost anything I want to do, it's like someone has already been there, done that and I just have to follow."

Hmm, Quite an impressive answer for a boring teacher. I admired her even more after that. I still wish her on 5th September without fail. 

All thanks to Lockdown 3.0, that I was checking my school album to pass time and the picture of my teacher appeared and it got me wondering about that incident that I just spoke of. 

Good old days they were..., Hang on a minute, I am almost an MBA now and what do I watch movies for? Just entertainment, my school teacher would have been so disappointed and angry at me, so here is a blog about lessons and that too management lessons all curated by observation. 

I am a management student and no expert, so kindly excuse me if I have stretched too far or too little in these lessons.

Tighten Your Seatbelts. Let's Begin!


 Movie #1 LAGAAN

Hindi | 2001 | 224 min | Sport | Adventure | Director: Ashutosh Gowariker | Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, and Rachel Shelley

Lagaan is such a movie that its making and production is a lesson in itself. 

It happened that Javed Akhtar got to know that Aamir Khan is doing a movie and rang up Aamir with a plethora of worries. He talked Aamir out of not doing, leave alone, producing this movie.

All the movies that were made previously, on history, had cricket or some sort of sports, and a native slang to the language spoken, had failed miserably at the box-office, they were commercially insignificant. Lagaan had all those elements in a single package. 

Aamir took a deep breath and answered "Javedji Mai phir bhi karna chahunga". (I would still want to try)

Javed Akhtar replied "Ab Tumne kuve (well) mai doobne ka soch hi liya hai toh doobo" and hung up

Aamir Khan went ahead with the making and the rest is history. 

Lesson#1: Data is important, it gives you insights, but it is not everything: It should not stop you from experimenting with new things. Best decisions are those, that are jointly made with Data and with some intuition and understanding. Once you have made a decision, stick with it 

Plot of the movie: The story is set in colonial India, Bhuvan secretly watches a cricket game played by the English elite and mocks the game. The commanding officer of the village challenges him to play against them. He offers to cancel the taxes of the whole province "for three years" if the villagers can beat them in their game of cricket.

If the villagers lose, however, they will have to pay "three times" (3 Guna Lagaan) their normal taxes. Bhuvan accepts the challenge and the story catapults into how a group of people come together, play to their strengths, and make the impossible possible.

Lesson#2: Think of Challenges as Opportunities: Bhuvan saw a challenge as an opportunity to save the villagers from taxes. He knew defeat meant devastation but he was focused on the opportunity. 

Does this COVID 19 throw some opportunity for Indian Entrepreneurs and Businesses? (Thought to Ponder)

Lession#3: Why it is important to have a Team: Most of the time, one cannot accomplish anything by working alone. Without a good team, success is luck by chance. Forming the right team and strategy will make success easier. 

History is full of examples of great companies being formed by a team of 2 or 3 people. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak hit my mind immediately. 

Lesson#4: Know your Team's Strengths: There is a person who is good at catching loose hens. There is another person who cannot pitch the ball straight. Our Hero, Bhuvan uses the first person in an important fielding position and the second one is used as a spin bowler. The manager should know who is good at what and assign tasks accordingly.

Lesson#5: Lead from the font: The winning run is scored by the hero. A Manager should walk the talk and step up to the front when the chips are down and still, lead the team to success.

In a Harvard Business school interview, Narayan Murthy on Leadership recently said 
"Your colleagues are constantly seeing what you are doing, if I want them to come on time, I need to reach before time, its Leadership by Example, I don't have to say it, I have to demonstrate it and lead from the front"


English | 1994 | 142 min | Comedy | Drama | Director: Robert Zemeckis | Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and Sally Field

Plot of the movie:  The story showcases several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted but kind-hearted man. 

Forrest joins the army in Vietnam, makes new friends, wins medals, creates a shrimp business out of nothing, inspires people to jog, donates to people, and thinks of his childhood friend Jenny all the time. 

Jack Ma had once said that he was inspired by this movie too

Lesson#1:  Distributing Work & Testing Uncertainties: There is a dialogue in the movie where Forrest's mother tells him "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get", which basically means that a box of chocolates has different flavors, nuts, or raisins covered in chocolate, and unless you put it into your mouth you will never know the flavor.

The management takeaway here is that we don't know what an individual is capable of, so you should test him or her from time to time, assigning all tasks to a single individual burdens a person and demotivates the others in a team.

This dialogue of chocolates applies to new products and services as well, you have to test them, no matter what an expert says. 

Henry Ford, founder of Ford motors who came out with the first automobile affordable to the middle class, was once asked in an interview: "Did you ask an expert what your customers want"?  He replied "No, he would have said faster horses"

Test. Test. Test and the customers will give you the answers, don't ask, test and experience

Lesson#2:  Keep your Promise: Forrest and his friend, Bubba, discuss a plan to start a shrimp business. Forrest promises him that once the wait is over, he will help him start the business and share the profit equally. Bubba, unfortunately, dies in the Vietnam war.
Forrest still fulfills their combined wish and gives 50% profits to Bubba's mother.

The Lesson here is keeping promises at work helps build credibility. 
Ensure that you meet the timeline you have committed to a client, make the payment promised to a vendor, or fulfill the role change or promotion promised to an employee. 

Even Organisations who have promised job offers to students shouldn't break their promise at first splash of uncertainty, there may be a delay, owing to the circumstances, but if they revoke they are probably hampering their own credibility.

Lesson#3:  Hustle, Never Settle: Gump says "That day for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of the town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured since I ran this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama." 

Forrest eventually runs across the country and sets a world record.

The Learning here is simple, If you have reached your goal, extend it, and set a new target. Never settle, this applies to teams, managers, individual employees. Never let complacency set in.


English | 2006 | 117 min | Biography | Drama | Director: Gabriele Muccino | Cat: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, and Thandie Newton

Plot of the movie: The film is based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner. Gardner is a salesman who invests his life savings in a medical scanner device. His wife leaves him due to his financial instability and he agrees to take care of his 5-year old son. 

Due to a turn of events, he gets evicted from his house with only $22 in hand. He picks up menial jobs and an internship in a stock brokerage firm while they spend their nights at a homeless shelter. 
The film is about an ordinary man with a lot of courage that comes up in life with hard work without revealing his circumstances to people around him.

Lesson#1: Motivation Ladder: Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is out on the road with no money. His immediate priority is to find a place to stay along with his son. his next priority is to get a job. He then makes friends with some high-value customers who could also help with his job. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is in play here. According to the theory, the Physiological needs (food, shelter, etc) should be met first, once they are satisfied safety needs should be met. Post this, there is a need for Belongingness, Esteem & Self-Actualization. 

When companies want to motivate their employees, the first focus should be on the need for competitive pay and safety in terms of health insurance, allowances, etc. 
One should focus on the work environment that encourages team bonding, employee engagement, buddy programs, and even mentoring. 
The next need can focus on reward & recognition mechanisms and giving more freedom to take on and deliver on a new project.

If an organization strives to meet these needs, employee attrition rates are not much of a problem anymore.

Lesson#2:  Don't Revel your Weakness: There is an incident in the movie where he lends $5 to his boss for a cab, money he cannot afford to part with, as he is living in dire conditions. 

Gardner does not reveal his precarious situation and still gives the money. 

This ensures no one takes advantage of his situation. If you cannot say "No" you will end up doing all the work in a team, if your customer finds out you aren't assertive enough, you will be taken for a joy ride. 

Work on your weaknesses but do not reveal them to avoid being exploited

Lesson#3:  Be Strong & Be Willing to Step Back: Tough times never last but tough people do. Even businesses with a viable business model & a strong leader will survive any crisis.

Gardner is convinced that by being a stockbroker he can succeed, and he leaves his sales job and joins as an unpaid intern in a stock brokerage company, his wife leaves him but that does not deter him. 

When the string in the arrow is pulled backward, it helps the arrow to shoot ahead faster and cover a longer distance. 

If there is a role in your organization or you want to choose a career that may not be rewarding in the short term but has great growth potential, do not hesitate to step back and grab the opportunity. 

Conclusion:  Movies allow us to escape, movies take us to places we’ve never been and inside the skin of people quite different from ourselves. They offer us a window onto the wider world, broadening our perspective and opening our eyes to new wonders. 

I hope you have liked this blog, it was my sincere effort to make sure your 7-8 minutes were worth it, I hope my school teacher would like it too

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