Outsourced – the movie

For many organisations being global means putting a physical presence in a different country and "Outsourced", a film released in 2007, is a well told, very amusing albeit somewhat lightweight, story of both organizational culture clash and learning in this situation. It opens "with an American (Todd) sent to India to train the low-paid employees of a new call center for his company, American Novelty Products. It sells, he explains, 'kitsch to redneck schmucks.' His Indian assistant asks him, 'Excuse me. What is 'redneck'? What is 'kitsch'? What is 'schmuck'?" The call center itself looks like a concrete-block storage hut but "inside … 12 or 15 employees struggle with US customer complaints." The average of each call is over 12 minutes, and Todd is instructed to get it down to six by his boss back in the US.

The film shows "that the key to survival is adaptability, a quality demonstrated by every major character in Outsourced – particularly Todd, who adapts to his hosts' culture and language and makes them more invested in their jobs by rewarding efficiency gains with products from the company's catalog".
But Todd is not only individually adaptive – he is also adaptive on behalf of both the US company he works for and the call centre organisation. What is useful about this film is that it is a tale of pragmatic and sensitive responses to cultural differences on-the-ground. All parties are learning from their interactions with each other how to adapt themselves and their organisations, within the boundaries of their different cultures, to do the work effectively. (The jarring, and also instructive, part is the way Todd's American manager, Dave, operates).

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