In the film Gung Ho, Assan Motors a Japanese company starts its operations in one of the towns in America following Keaton’s request. Rivalry emerges between American workers and the Japanese officials due to a difference in modus operandi as well as clashing cultures. The Japanese managers are insisting on carrying out the business in the way they know how. Similarly, the American employees want to perform their roles in their own style. The Japanese valued their work more to an extent that family time was minimal. This was not the case with the Americans and the industry performed dismally (Scott et.al, 2002). Later on, the members from both countries learn to embrace cultural diversity and great success is realized. The film clearly shows how difference in culture among members can adversely impact business operations. This paper illustrates various instances of cross-cultural interactions between the Japanese and the Americans as illustrated in the film. It also analyses those examples in the context of Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions, Trompenaar’s as well as Edward H. The paper also presents some recommendations on how cultural interactions would have been carried tackled in a better way contrary to how it is illustrated in the film.
Examples of cross -cultural interactions
Individualism versus collectivism is one of the instances of cross-cultural interactions in Gung Ho film. According to Hofstede’s theory, this is the dimension in which people tend to value themselves and their close relatives as well as with other people. The film illustrates Americans subscribing to individualistic culture characterized by personal achievements, equality and little reliance on authority. They easily interact with other people using informal language. On the other hand, the Japanese works towards maintaining harmony in their country. They are also very loyal amongst themselves and to the company they work for hence they are collectivists. A great illustration in the film clearly shows how the Japanese employees loyal to the company. They are more productive despite their low wages whereas the Americans performed poorly with the same wages. A clash between individualism and collectivism cultures is illustrated during exercises in Assan Motors (Rogers, 2001). The Japanese insists on calisthenics exercises before work but the Americans are not comfortable. Instead, they exercised different styles in the way they know how and this resulted into a conflict. Both parties believed they were right while their counter parts were wrong. In another case, there is a disagreement between the two parties when a Japanese manager feels that the American employee is supposed to paint a manner best known to Japanese. The employee on the other hand is of the opinion that they are supposed to paint in the American way since the company is in America. Gung Ho also depicts Americans as people who avoided work when a member of their families fell ill and were not bothered with the future of the company they worked for compared to their Japanese colleagues who worked for the good of the company. In fact, Kazihiro scolds Willie when he leaves work to attend to his hospitalized son.
Masculinity versus Femininity as explained by Trompenaar’s theory is another example of cross-cultural interaction. The Americans associate masculinity with success as well as achievements. In contrast, the Japanese associate masculinity with working more and perfectly. This cultural difference is portrayed towards the end of the film after it dawned on the American employees how difficult it was to produce 15,000 vehicles (Hall &Hall, 1990). American employees embarked on a shorter method in order to get things done. The output was poor and the company threatened to fire Keaton over low production. Keaton uses symbolism to describe American’s masculinity as he likens their improved performance to that of a basketball win while pleading for another chance in Assan Motors.
In the context of communication style as explained by Edward Hall, a major difference is observed between the Japanese and the Americans. For the Americans, their communication style is of low context as opposed to indirect communication (high context) exhibited by their Japanese colleagues. In Gung Ho, Hunt uses a direct communication while requesting Japanese managers to start their business in Hadleyville. The Japanese managers remain quiet on the idea and later when the managers arrive in America ready to open Assan Motors Company, Hunt is amazed that they actually agreed to his request yet they had remained silent. This indicates communication clash based on cultural differences. Another instance in the film where high context communication is portrayed is during a soft ball game between the Japanese and the Americans. As the game continues a man is knocked down on purpose by Buster but the Japanese left without contesting the event. The Americans have an n emotional culture whereas the Japanese have a neutral culture (Deresky, 2014). This example relates to Trompenaar’s dimensions on communication. According to Trompenaar’s theory, emotional people express their anger openly as compared to neutral people who are able to control their emotions. The Japanese have exhibited a neutral culture in the above example. This is contrary to Hunt’s reaction when Audrey insists on staying with men as they discuss business issues. He directly asks her to leave but the Japanese again do not utter a word despite the fact that they also do not appreciate her presence in that meeting since it was meant for men only. Here, Keaton exhibits an emotional culture of expressing anger openly whereas the Japanese are portrayed as neutral by remaining silent.
Americans and Japanese handle uncertain situations differently as illustrated in the film using Hofstede’s cultural dimension. According to this theory, cultures that protect themselves from uncertain events through formulation and implementation of policies regarding such situations are said to exhibit a high uncertainty avoidance index. In this regard, Japan records the highest index in the context of uncertainty avoidance as demonstrated throughout the film. They are less tolerant to varying opinions, they also tend to have many rules and do not subscribe to different religions or schools of thoughts (Deresky, 2014). Americans on the opposite side have a low uncertainty index thus exhibits a culture that accepts uncertainty. They are fairly comfortable when it comes to trying something they are not used to as well as accepting new ideas. Moreover, they practice different religious beliefs and philosophies. As Gung Ho progresses, there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether there will come a time when the two groups will come together and settle their differences for the good of the company.
There is also a difference in power distance between the Americans and the Japanese. Low power distance is exhibited by the Americans in believing that as workers their opinion regarding the firm’s operations should be considered. In contrast, the Japanese exercise a high power distance whereby they assume that Assan’s managers ought to make all decisions concerning the company (Rogers, 2001). Thus conflict emerges following American workers’ demand for consultation on matters regarding workers’ union which is viewed as disrespectful and morally wrong by the Japanese managers since they believe that employees are not supposed to question the decisions of those in power. At the beginning of the film, Keaton goes to Japan and finds Watanabe begging the managers for a second recruitment. Keaton feels that that’s not the right way of requesting for a job but Watanabe explains that reinstatements requires an individual to beg those in authority for a second chance.
In terms of orientation, the Japanese are pragmatic thus they work for better results in the future. Their achievements are long term unlike the Americans whose achievements are based on short terms hence they are normative. An illustration in Gung Hu shows How Keaton was expecting an immediate answer from the Japanese managers concerning the commencement of their business in America (Hall &Hall, 1990). Keaton was interested in the answer for him to determine whether his colleagues would secure jobs from the company. He also wanted to save his town The Assan Motors managers on the other hand were more interested with the future of their company therefore took time to make that decision.
Earlier in the film the Family of Watanabe strictly adheres to and practices Japanese culture. The instance where Keaton dines with Watanabe’s family for the first time, everything in that house exhibits a Japanese culture from the meals to home organization (Deresky, 2014). Later in Gung Hong, the family indulges in the American culture where sausages becomes a delicacy. Besides, Watanabe’s children embraces the American mode of dressing as well as watching American channels such as MTV.
Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory also impacts on management styles particularly those attributed to human resources. In the film Gung Ho, different management practices influenced by different cultures are thoroughly illustrated. A major difference is noted between the rival countries as far as work flow development and process is concerned. The Japanese tend to formulate a certain way of doing things, follow it and later improves it where necessary in order to attain the best outcome. Americans in contrast uses a similar method repeatedly until better results are achieved (Harris & Moran, 1996). This dynamic is illustrated in Assan Motors workplace where the Americans specialized in the production process. In this specialization, every individual performed the same role repeatedly without trying to make the process better. For their counterparts from Japan, things were different since efficiency was attained through continuous improvement of their method of doing things hence high production. This is related to Hofstede’s theory of individualism and collectivism where employees from Japan are more loyal to the company therefore work tirelessly to ensure success of the company they work for. They also possess a high power distance index whereas the Americans (individualists) are portrayed as lazy since their production is low.
In the context of promotion and remuneration in a work place, an individual’s performance is used as a basis of promotion in America. This is the reason American employees are concerned about a reward when they almost hit the target of producing 15,000 cars. They believe that the company ought to reward them for the 13,000 quotas despite falling short of the required quota (Rogers, 2001). Their short term oriented culture expects quick rewards or incentives. On the other hand, only dedicated employees and those that have worked for a long time in the company qualify for a reward in the Japanese culture. They are future oriented thus pragmatic as Hofstede explains therefore meeting a certain goal does not warrant a reward. Their collectivist culture embraces work as a better reward compared to the monies received from doing the same work.
There is a great difference between the Americans’ managerial planning and that of Japan. In matters relating to decision making Americans relies on a few people who sells the company’s ideas then later informs other members. In the contrary, the Japanese do not rely on individual-based decisions rather make decisions collectively. For them to reach a consensus, all the managers must be involved in a lengthy discussion. A case in point is demonstrated at the beginning of the film where Keaton travels alone to Japan to woo a group of Japanese managers to open a vehicle industry in USA (Harris & Moran, 1996). The Japanese managers take their time before giving a feedback to Keaton who actually thought they were not interested since he expected a quick answer. Keaton’s culture has short timeline as far as decision making is concerned since one or a few individuals are involved unlike the Assan managers who exercises long timelines as they have to consult amongst themselves.
Organizing is handled differently between the two parties. While the Americans emphasizes on personal accountability and adherence to a formal structure, the Japanese have no formal structure and practice collective responsibility (Deresky, 2014). This is in line with various Hofstede’s theories such as individualism, uncertainty avoidance as well as power distance. For instance in Gung Ho, there are numerous managers from Japan in the company yet Keaton represents the American interests alone. In another example, Keaton character is personally accountable for making his fellow Americans believe that the company owed them a reward even when they did not meet their goal of 15,000 quota.
The film also reveals a staffing difference. The Japanese employees are loyal to the company thus work for long hours without complaining and are rarely given a raise. Their focus is on improved productivity rather high wages or incentives (Harris &Moran, 1996). Their colleagues on the other side left work early, complained for a raise, took time off for their families and were hardly loyal. These examples can be associated with Hofstede’s theories of short term and long term orientation. Another difference is found in leading styles. Keaton character has been acting as the leader of the American employees throughout the film. He is like a CEO who leads from top down unlike the Japanese who lead through patriarchal style. They were so used to this style such that they dealt with Keaton character as a group during meetings.
There are various ways in which instances of cultural interactions between Americans and Japanese would have been handled differently by the parties concerned. This would have resulted in a better experience unlike the one portrayed in the film Gung Ho. First, according to Hall & Hall (1990) the issue on individualism and collectivism in the film would have been managed through sensitizing all the employees working for Assan motors on impacts of cultural differences in a workplace. For instance an orientation program would be necessary for the American employees as well as Japanese managers on different cultures exhibited by both parties and how to embrace both cultures. The training would equip everyone with the skills on how to go about cultural clashes. Various instances of conflict in the film would be solved through formulation of policies governing behavior of employees and managers putting in considerations the norms and culture of both parties. According to Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions, team-work is essential in a workplace therefore cross-cultural teambuilding enhances production. Thus Assan managers would have bought this tip.
Second, in regard to communication, a formal method of communication would make a great difference. It is illustrated in the film how low context and high context styles brought about some misunderstandings between the Americans and Japanese (Deresky, 2014). The Japanese managers in particular would learn to give accurate information which is key to effective decision making. For example in the scene where Keaton is wooing the Japanese managers to re-open the company in USA, they remained quiet. If they had given him a direct answer he would have gone home with a surety of saving his town.
Third, integration of different cultures in a work place would have produced different results. This integration would encompass adoption of western and eastern cultures in Assan Motors such as painting like Americans do and exercising in Japanese styles would have yielded better results as far as power direction index is concerned (Hall &Hall, 1990). Each party would feel appreciated and would be eager to learn more about their colleagues thus improving production.
The fourth suggestion is that the Keaton who acted as a liaison officer for the American employees would have talked to the Japanese managers regarding the American culture. He would enlighten them on what motivates Americans in a workplace, their managerial styles, communication, how they view time as well as their view on remuneration and incentives etcetera. Similarly, the Assan managers would have explained their culture and their expectations for the employees before striking a deal. This would have saved them more time and energy spent on solving cultural differences (Harris &Moran, 1996). Lastly, The Assan managers would get in touch with other Japanese companies operating in America and learn how the two cultures are faring on. They would also learn from the experiences of these companies both negative and positive, how they interact with American employees, their operations, challenges and many more. They would then apply the same in Assan Motors while making adjustments and improvements where necessary.
In summary, cross-cultural interactions can bring about rivalry between parties according to Harris & Moran (1996) especially where each party remains in a comfort zone and fails to learn other people’s culture. This is clearly illustrated in Gung Ho film. A cross- cultural management is therefore employed to offer a solution to this problem. For people to co-exist peacefully with others they must understand cultural differences and learn how to embrace them (Harris &Moran, 1996). Besides, they should also accept and tolerate other people’s cultures. Effective cross-cultural management is based on knowledge which results in content employees and productive workplace.
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Rogers, E. B. (2001). Landscape design: A cultural and architectural history. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
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