Film analysis in management: a journey through the metaphors of the concept of leadership.

AutorAoki, Vanessa Cristina Grabowski


Management is a mix of science and art; the field is open to innovations by developing new practices and skills, with new dimensions that significantly change the art of learning and teaching (Davel, Vergara, & Ghadiri, 2007). A film can be used as a tool for the understanding of organizations, and this didactic resource brings new forms of management education that add deep knowledge to organizational concepts (Barros, Miranda, &Rodriguez, 2017). A film is not a neutral instrument of communication, and film language is an event that takes part in the construction of subjects with management topics, where images facilitate the reflection of playful processes for new discoveries and problem-solving toward self-transformation (Ipiranga, 2005).

Maurice Merleau Ponty, in the 1940s, considered movies a phenomenological art, and film metaphors allow us to broaden concepts and deepen debates that complement an apprentice's learning and teaching (Fleury & Sarsur, 2007). Metaphor is a figure of speech that aims to build other concepts, in a symbolic approach for an abstract comparison in terms of ideas (Vergara, 2015). Metaphor is a possibility of knowledge building that facilitates project development, by guiding interpretation and action (Davel, Calasans, & Moura, 2015).

Leite, Nishimura and Silva (2016) state that observational studies allow the advancement of knowledge on issues related to learning methodologies, and films allow us to extract verbal and nonverbal data from the behavior of characters; the scientific spirit creates the meaning of the problem, and answers result from the dialectically built knowledge that questions, constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs. Concept transfer and the search for analogies and metaphors facilitate the understanding of the teaching and learning elements. The use of artistic and cultural resources enables the exploration, inaccessible through emotions, into concepts, with great learning (Cunha, 2007).

Wood (2007) observes that the practical experience of using films to discuss the concept of leadership, in the discipline Post-industrial Organizations, in graduate courses, was fruitful and stimulating, and students considered positive the use of visual resources, which allowed them to reflect on their ontological and epistemological perspectives, thus enriching the learning process. To the author, this experiment has brought a change to class dynamics, with greater interactions and discussions and a critical content, serving as a resource for watching films with "other eyes," by recognizing signs and meanings previously unconscious.

In order to deepen research on film analysis in the field of management, our research question was "How does the film portray leadership concepts through metaphors?" Hence, the main objective was to analyze the metaphors about leadership present in a film. We chose the movie Chicken Run (Park and Lord, 2000), an animated film, which is full of metaphors, with important concepts in the field of management about leadership and teamwork, making it easier to understand internal and external behaviors of organizations. The film was released in Brazil in 2000, inspired by a fable from the 1950s.

We chose a qualitative methodology, the content analysis (Bardin, 2016), divided into three stages: (1) preanalysis, (2) material exploration and (3) treatment of results, inference and interpretation. We determined the selection criteria for using this film by theoretical propositions involving the construct "leadership," as well as film analysis as the locus of the learning process.

We consider that film language represents the context of organizations through the metaphors embedded in the film's speeches and experiences. With the scenes decoupaged and recorded in protocol, it was possible to describe, discuss and understand the phenomenon of leadership in organizations. Therefore, the metaphors present in the film facilitate the understanding of internal and external dynamics of organizations, proving to be an interesting and creative way for the teaching-learning process in management.

Theoretical framework

Film analysis and the use of metaphor in management studies

According to Wood (2008), the use of films has aroused the interest of teachers and researchers, and they have become a tool to think about the management of companies. Management teaching allows communication to provide an internal and external visibility of the firm (Alves & Blikstein, 2010). In this sense, we carried out a search in the SPELL database, between 1998 and 2017, in order to know the field. We found 37 articles on film analysis in management.

Leite and Leite (2007,2010) published six of the 37 articles found on film analysis. Their articles have in common the film analysis method guiding several areas of the management field, such as dynamic capabilities, communication and people management. Leite and Leite (2007, 2010) are partners in three of the studies, as well as Freitas and Leite (2015) have contributed to two papers in partnership with Leite (2015, 2017).

Addressing film analysis, Ipiranga (2005) and Bizarria et al. (2014); Bizarria et al. (2017) contributed to two papers. Paiva et al. (2008), in partnership, also have contributed to two articles. Finally, Bizarria et al (2014) also published twice in partnership. The other researchers have contributed to only one paper.

We found that in the field of management, there are a stable number of publications on film analysis, with 2013 and 2014 being the years of the highest volume, which rose again from 2015 to 2017. Journals in the database that most published papers on film analysis were Revista Interdisciplinar de Gestao Social, with five articles, Revista de Administracao da UFSM (3 articles), Revista de Administracao) de Empresas (3), Revista de Gestao (3), Cadernos EBAPE.BR (2), Organizacoes & Sociedade (2), REUNA (2), Revista de Administracao Mackenzie (2), Revista Pensamento Coontemporaneo em Administracao (2) and Rosa dos Ventos--Turismo e Hospitalidade (2). Other magazines published only one article.

After reading and analyzing the articles, we conclude that the discussion of film language in the context of organizations is appropriate. Freitas and Leite (2015) state that the different situations present in a film can also be observed and experienced at the organizational setting, where actors are the professionals who interact daily, by communicating, producing and reproducing speeches.

Inserting the metaphor into the discussion of film language, we highlight Morgan's studies (2007, 2011). The author (2011) defines it as a device to embellish the speech since it implies a sensitive and materialistic way of thinking and looking at the world. The use of metaphor considers organizations as units of analysis, by observing them and their members with different sets of "needs" arising from relationship patterns that allow them to adapt to the environment.

Every belief, from classical to modern management theory, suggests that organizations can or should be rational systems that operate as efficiently as possible; over time, changes in the structure of organizations have always aimed to attain an operation as accurate as possible within authority standards (Morgan, 2011).

Leadership and metaphor

Campos and Davel (2017) observe that through arts, the process of assimilation and learning takes place in a creative way, with the social engagement of the produced knowledge. Appreciation of artistic and literary work allows a new look and arouses senses, thus developing the creativity of students in the area of management (Baeta, 2007). In her experience of using a dynamic resource, based on the book "The traveler's luggage," published by Caminhos editor, she managed to evoke childhood's stored issues and her own concerns, seeking to understand what disturbed her and identifying situations revealed between the lines.

According to Botelho (2004), experiencing and overcoming conflicts allows to symbolically rebuild memories at the level of consciousness, and the memory is activated by flashes. In the book "The cherries," the metaphor used was that of a scorpion trapped in a circle of fire. For the author, this metaphor represents the steps the girl has to take to reach maturity, related to the tests she has to undergo, and the symbolic death represents a metaphor for the core of the initiation process.

Rosa (2007) says that the cartoon metaphor came to be part of the whole, of the cycle of death and rebirth, where characters change but the soul and spirit remain enchanted by fairy godmothers. Silva and Gomes (2009) report that animated films use metaphors to convey subjectivities, where the drawings bring information and old sensations that are forgotten when we become adults.

Davel et al. (2015) used the metaphor to investigate leadership in the field of management, focusing on a gardener. In this approach, the authors describe leadership metaphors about the gardener's practices. Self-development and self-knowledge are critical in leadership and require interpretation and human understanding. The human being is unique, but the story takes place in the collective sphere, where interpretation precedes comprehension, and comprehension is the ability to put oneself in the place of the other (Minayo, 2012).

The gardener metaphor on leadership comprises six steps, where the leader (1) seeks self-knowledge and internal harmonization; (2) prepares the ground for projects in which people develop themselves; (3) avoids sloppy pruning at the wrong time, measure and place and directs them to reach the goal; (4) provides training and creates forms of interaction and knowledge exchange by awakening entrepreneurial engagement; (5) handles the collective situations where people are invited to perform activities in the organization and makes the decision in a mature and constructive way and (6) reaps the result of...

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