In Good Company posterThis evening, I took the evening our from work and our three daughters (youngest is 10 weeks old), and went out movies with my wife. We saw an amazing movie that I can highly recommend to anyone wanting to make sense of the business world today. It is not an attempt deconstructing the business world, nor an accurate portrayal thereof, but it certainly leaves one thinking. The movie in question is In Good Company (click here for the IMDB entry).
IMDB gives the following plot summary: “Dan Foreman is headed for a shakeup. He is demoted from head of ad sales for a major magazine when the company he works for is acquired in a corporate takeover. His new boss, Carter Duryea, is half his age – a business school prodigy who preaches corporate synergy. While Dan develops clients through handshake deals and relationships, Carter cross-promotes the magazine with the cell phone division and Krispity Krunch, an indeterminate snack food under the same corporate umbrella. Both men are going through turmoil at home. Dan has two daughters, Alex, age 18, and Jana, age 16, and is shocked when his wife tells him she’s pregnant with a new child. Carter, in the meanwhile, is dumped by his wife of seven months just as he gets his promotion. Dan and Carter’s uneasy friendship is thrown into jeopardy when Carter falls for, and begins an affair with, Dan’s daughter Alex.”

This is a little simplistic. The movie is about how two men from two different generations handle the changing realities of the 21st-century workplace, while simultaneously dealing with issues in their personal lives. As I watched the movie, I had a range of emotions. The first was quite fun – watching the young 26 year old being shoved into a position he was not ready for and falling back on the psychobabble spooned out in many modern management self-help books and by vacuous consultants. The critique of this buzzword approach to business management was relentless throughout the movie, culminating in a wonderful scene when Dennis Quaid takes on the global guru who is much more showman than businessman.
But then my mirth turned to anger. The Boomers (born post World War II to the 1960s – see Mind the Gap) were portrayed as victims, and the Gen Xers (born 1960s to 1980s) as the ruthless corporate mercenaries. Come on?!? Are we forgetting the 1980s, complete with Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) in Wall Street? It was the Boomers who perfected the purely financial relationship between person and company that could be terminated at any moment. If they are on the receiving end of this treatment, then part of me simply says that they had it coming! And since more than two thirds of Baby Boomers are divorced, to portray the Boom a has happily married and well adjusted, and the Xer (26 years old) as divorced and lonely seems a little too obvious.
But then I realised that although the movie made some great points about different generations – some accurate and some not – and although it reflected some of the fears of the two dominant working generations at the moment (for Boomers that they are becoming irrelevant and for Xers that a lack of experience will not make up for drive, passion and talent), ultimately this movie was about human beings trying to find a place in the world. It is about trying to create a working environment in which people feel they contribute to making the world a better place and really believing in what they’re doing. Every character in the movie learnt this lesson one way or another.
So as I left the movie and went to my parents-in-law’s home, bundled my three little girls into my car, and drove back to our wonderful home, I took time to reflect on whether I feel I am making a difference. I do. In the end, this movie has left me profoundly grateful for the work that I do, and realising again that we are at are not “the generations guys” (although that is something we do really well). We are much more than that. Our goal and passion is to help people get more out of their lives in the business world. And that means helping corporates to become more “human”.
A great movie. Worth a watch.

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