Romantic Comedies in Hollywood and Bollywood

Assumption: The median age for marriage in urban India is much lower than the median age of marriage in urban United States of America

Hence, romantic comedies in hollywood, usually end up having characters who are older than corresponding comedies made by Bollywood. Thus, Hollywood romantic comedies can be made to be more mature than corresponding Bollywood romantic comedies.

Data point: Serendipity was remade as “Milenge Milenge”. I was watching the latter movie a few days back (couldn’t sit through more than five minutes of it, as I kept comparing each scene to the corresponding scene in the original). In Serendipity the protagonists are around 35, and thus show a maturity that corresponds to that age. You can see that in the way they behave, go about things, etc. And here, in Milenge Milenge you have Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor singing and prancing around like Jackasses. You can’t watch too much of that, can you?

Tailpiece: My all time favourite romantic comedy (across languages) remains Ganeshana Maduve, starring Anant Nag and Vinaya Prasad. I’ll talk about the virtues of the movie in another post but I can’t think of any other movie that even comes close to this one. Meanwhile, if you haven’t watched this movie, get hold of a subtitled copy of it and watch it. Now.

Partners and Associates

Last week I’d written this post about managing studs, and while discussing that with some colleagues the other day, I realized that I could reformulate it without touching upon the studs and fighters theory. So let us consider a consulting firm. There is a partner, whose sole job is to solicit business for the firm, and to get the lion’s share of the benefits. And there are associates, trying hard to get noticed and promoted, and working for this partner. It’s the associates who do most of the work. Let’s assume that the firm is in “steady state”, where as long as they don’t mess up, there is a steady stream of business assured.

Under this assumption, all that the partner needs to do is to ensure he and his team don’t “mess up”. He knows that he has the relationships to keep the work flowing, and given that he doesn’t really do any work himself, he doesn’t care about the nature of work, or whether his associates find the work challenging, or interesting, and stuff. As long as the tap is open, and he makes his “partner’s cut”, he’s happy.

Given this, his incentives are towards work that is hard to go wrong. “Steady” work, where expectations are likely to be high, but the downside risk is quite low suits him absolutely fine, and he seeks to find more and more of that kind of stuff. There is little chance that his relationships with his steady clients can go wrong in this kind of a situation, right? So he goes about trying to find work with a “short deep-out-of-money option” payoff.

What about the associates? There will be some of them that are already established, and known to these steady clients. They know that it’s only a matter of time before they get promoted and hit the partnership pot of gold. They’ve made their mark, at a time when they had the opportunity to do so, and now they only need to hold fort till the end of the rainbow. And they hold on, perfectly happy to do work in which things can’t go wrong.

As for the other associates, who are still looking to establish themselves? What they’d ideally like would be the opportunity for “big wins”, which will make them be seen, and noticed, and enable them to make the move up the ladder when the time is right. Given their current standing, they don’t mind taking the risk – they have little to lose in terms of lost reputation. On the other hand they have everything to gain from pulling off improbable big wins. Basically they ideally like the “long deep-out-of-money option” payoff. ┬áBut the stream of projects the partners and other associates prefer doesn’t give them the opportunity to go for this kind of payoff! So they are stuck.

So, if you are working in a consulting firm, which is in reasonably steady state, where the partners don’t take part in day-to-day work, and where you are not yet established, you need to think if you’re in the right place.

Big Management and Big Picture

One common shortcoming that top management in a lot of companies is accused of is that they give too much attention to details (i.e. sometimes they micromanage), and they are unable to see the big picture.

For example, if you think about the financial crisis of 2007-08, people kept making stupid bets about the mortgage market because they didn’t look at mortgages in the overall context of economy. They looked at their models, made sure they “converged” to a zillion digits, the math was perfect, etc. And priced. And conveniently forgot some of the “big assumptions”.

I think this has to do with the typical promotion procedures in corporations, and an assumption that people who are good at one kind of stuff will continue to be good at other kinds of stuff.

For example, in the early part of your career, in order to move up the “corporate ladder”, it’s important to show your skills at being able to give attention to detail, to be able to see the “little picture”, be careful and precise, and so on. For these are the kind of skills that makes one successful in the lower-level jobs.

Now, my hypothesis is that being good at details and being good at seeing the big picture are at best orthogonal, and at worst negatively correlated. I base this hypothesis on some initial reading on stuff like Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder and related topics.

So, when you promote people based on their ability to be good at details (which is required at lower levels of the job), you will end up with a top and middle management full of people who are excellent at details, and whose ability in seeing the big picture is at best questionable. Explains well, right?

I don’t know what can be done to rectify this. Promotion is too important to take away as an incentive for good performance at junior levels. Some organizations do institute procedures where for higher promotions you also need to show skills that show your big picture skills. But these are only for people who have already reached middle management, which is people who are good at details, which means that a large part of those who started at the bottom, and who are “big picture people” would have already fallen at the wayside by then.

Does my hypothesis make sense? If it does, what do you think needs to be done to get big picture thinkers at the top?