Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"The breakthrough innovations come when tension is greatest and the resources are most limited. That’s when people are actually a lot more open to rethinking the fundamental way they do business." Clayton M. Christensen

"Creativity is thinking new things. Innovation is doing new things." Theodore Levitt

"Planning, by its very nature, defines and preserves categories. Creativity, by its very nature, creates categories or re-arranges established ones." Henry Mintzberg

Today's image: ...my home town by -Just John- Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

The following text is an excerpt taken from the Sean Ross email newsletter and is shared here in the hope it will prompt you to remember a pro now out of work, cause you to take action and reach out to those in need. My thanks to Sean.

This Holiday Season, You Make The Call

Every ROR (Ross On Radio) reader undoubtedly knows a programmer with a great track record and without a radio station. You may not have reached out to this person in a while: maybe over guilt about being the one who's still working; maybe because you don't know how to help; perhaps because there's no good way to respond to somebody who is (justifiably or otherwise) frustrated and angry about being cut off from an industry they contributed to for so many years - an industry that is hardly flourishing without them.

So, if you are in any way touched by Dene Hallam's death, chances are excellent that you have phone calls of your own to make this holiday season. However few resources you may be able to offer somebody, you have the opportunity to make them feel less marginalized.

Buy a cool book, help a charity. As you may know, Turn It Up! American Radio Tales is the wonderful book by Bob Shannon. It's the must-read for radio geeks. Just in time for holiday gift giving, Bob is offering his book at a special discount and he will make a donation to the Conclave for each book sold. Get more info, purchase the book at the not otherwise available deep discount, here. [FD: I serve as a director for the charity and as an unpaid adviser to the author]

Bonus: Killer value proposition. Attend the Conclave 2010 Learning Conference and pay the early bird rate of $199 or get a group of ten together and pay only $149. More info, here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot." Umberto Eco

"Life is too short not to do something that matters" Hugh MacLeod

"We think the Internet is moving completely toward mobile." Jeff Cole

Today's image: otono by Darco TT. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

The last post here included a mention of "unlearning" and marketing maven Tom Asacker offered a comment

...I think "unlearning" is nearly impossible. People simply can't "throw out all of the furniture," and knickknacks, memorabilia, etc. Instead, they need to pick up and move. It's during the move that they unload the old, useless collection of thoughts, routines, etc. New thinking comes from a new environment, not from a redecorated one.

Tom makes a thoughtful argument and I certainly agree that unlearning is difficult. It is Tom's notion to "pick up and move" that presents a uniquely interesting challenge. My thought is those leading today's media organizations are dedicating resources and a majority share of mind to business preservation. While there is an urgent need to develop new business models, an increasingly obvious need to get serious about the digital frontier, the oxygen required for such development must come from sustaining present revenues.

My sense is our media "house" can be likened to Dorothy's in The Wizard of Oz. Caught up in forces of the environment, we seem to have been struck unconscious whilst our "place" in the world is being forever changed. Our landing in a digital Oz however should not be confused with a dream. Much like Dorothy, we are living through an unexpected, disruptive, game-changing moment. It's every bit as dramatic as our awakening when watching the move. We suddenly see things in color after first coming to know, accept a "normal" world of black and white.

Media organizations, many being accountable to Wall Street, are operating to optimize near-term earnings. This mindset rewards the predictable outcome which fosters the twin enemies of innovation - incrementalism and institutionalized risk aversion. Activity becomes focused on optimizing the known numerator. Optimization alone will produce earnings growth but only to a finite point. Once every variable that can be influenced has been optimized growth inevitably stalls, the street is disappointed. Management makes references to peer performance, sector issues and impact of the macroeconomic environment. Beware the bad comp, know its potential in creating an illusion of progress.

The real danger is running on empty, leading a portfolio of so-called wasting assets. Continuing a die hard devotion to tweaking what is without imagining other futures.

The rate of innovation outside of media organizations is greater than inside. This should serve as the first engine warning light flashing. When school children and other amateurs can produce and upload a YouTube video that gets more views and comments than the expensive scripted shows running in prime we should understand it's time to have an adult conversation. When the majority of top ranked social media users in any given DMA are listeners and viewers (the group formerly known as the audience) rather than media properties, or professional media creators it seems time to entertain a serious discussion concerning what's happening, what's not happening and how we might influence the action going forward.

This is not a dress rehearsal
We are professionals
This is the big time

On with the show

We must discover ways to create new markets, new denominators and, it seems to me, that will require moving to the new environment that Tom writes about. He's right on the money. In 2010 orchestrating that move effectively will become your other full-time job. Having a keen sense of place has, perhaps, never been more important nor more potentially rewarding. My thanks to Tom Asacker.

In sum, we need to do - as Hugh MacLeod suggests - something that matters. Let me encourage you to begin that process by investing some time today to watch a video. It's the Jeff Cole keynote at last week's MPR hosted Future of News Summit. It's about what's happening around us and deserves your attention. You may access the video via YouTube, here. Watch, share with your team, think, discuss, dream, create.

Bonus: I'll Tumblr For Ya. The David Karp interview by Ned Hepburn via VICE, here.

Tweet of the Week: Killer. My thanks to Timesman and uber-cool Twitterer Patrick LaForge. View tweet, here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." Paul Valery

"Where are you likely to find people with the least diversity of experience, the largest investment in the past, and the greatest reverence for industry dogma? At the top." Gary Hamel

"If you work slowly and meticulously, you merely end up with a very fine implementation of your initial, mistaken idea. Working slowing and meticulously is premature optimization. Better to get a prototype done fast, and see what new ideas it gives you." Paul Graham

Today's image: Banksy (crop) by Martin in London. Great shot. Thank you for sharing.

Not what they signed up for

Much continues to be written about the state of affairs in ad-supported measured media. The 400 year-old death spiral of the dead tree guys is, rightly, getting the most attention. Jeff Cole, the brilliant media scholar and leading researcher of our new digital world, said at this week's MPR hosted Future of News Summit..."Instead of counting down the two newspaper towns, we now count up the no newspaper towns." Jeff went on to say should a newsprint eating virus vanish newspapers no one under forty would notice and, off the cuff, opined that a precious handful of papers would survive. Indicating the NYT, WSJ, WaPo, USAT were likely among the short listed survivors, he suggested "my LAT" was headed towards ruin.

The problem for jazz stations and college professors

Cole said we will see incredible consolidation ahead and this will extend to the academy. He indicated 2,000 US college professors now teach Introduction to Psychology. Why should anyone have to take the course from anyone other than the best professor in the country or the world, who might even be dead when they teach the course. We will end up with three or four professors teaching three or four basic courses - via the internet - the best professors who have ever taught the subjects. We don't have a need for 2,000 teaching the same course.

We no longer need listen to local radio that we perceive to fall short of expectation. Professor Cole used Jazz radio as an example. We are not bound to tolerating the poor local jazz station when we may opt to listen to the best jazz station in the world (he's heard it originates in India). This echos my brief before the 2005 Conclave Learning Conference: "It is no longer a game of being the best at what you do in your market, that soon won't be enough to sustain success. You must rise to the challenge of being the best in the world at what you do - and becoming known for it."

"For those who want to understand the environment in which we are operating, our learning curve has to be much steeper than our action curve.
We have to be studying and watching and following relentlessly." Jeff Cole

Cole made an excellent point when he suggested TIME Magazine got it wrong three years ago. They had missed a significant cultural shift (the fundamental importance of "community") when naming its Person of the Year "YOU" instead of "US." You may access video of Jeff Cole's keynote, truly a tour de force, via YouTube, here. Highly recommended.

One of the best lines of the meet was by Richard Gingras, CEO of Salon Media Group. Quoting his own earlier tweet, he said "The future of news is a future of conferences about the future of news."

Let us commend Bill Kling and his MPR team for organizing and hosting such an important gathering. Let us also extend kudos to MPR's own Julia Schrenkler for coordinating a real-time, robust and leading-edge companion effort online. Julia tells me it was her team that pulled off the practically flawless execution. She does single out the uber-cool camera jockey Chuck Olsen for his valuable behind-the-scenes contributions. Should you wish to learn more about The Future of News Summit, the MPR team offers a Ning, here. Julia has advised me that more video and ppt will be posted in the coming days.

Those that follow me on Twitter are perhaps aware that I attempted to live tweet the summit. As usual I was getting things almost right, sometimes dead wrong, leaving important stuff out but dear friends such is the nature of live tweeting. You may access the live tweets (and retweeting of many) by searching the tfon hashtag, here.

Later I'll post more on the issues raised during the summit. Today, allow me to invite your attention to two items and, while we're at it, a throwback to 2004 and a bonus must-read.

We have an urgent need to invite more women, minorities and youth to participate in our most important discussions. It is hard to argue the presence of (or respect for) cognitive diversity when industry gatherings continue to feature middle-aged white men in the majority. We can change this overnight. Let's do it.

While there is no shortage of blame being delegated for today's troubles in ad-supported measured media we have witnessed a change. Once celebrated as rock stars, CEOs are now, more often than not, the goats of coarse derision. No offense to goats intended. The transition of CEO from visionary wealth building genius to tone deaf idiot has happened in less than a decade.

Jeff Cole offered many valuable insights during his remarks. Among them saying executives that had started their careers in newspapers, broadcasting and advertising thirty years (or more) ago have a significantly different pov of the business than those that came into the industry in the middle 1990s. There have, in fact, been profound and dramatic changes in the way business is done. It's a sea change, a very different business as usual set point. While I am not one to defend or excuse the bad practices or poor decisions of most media CEOs, please permit me to suggest that what is happening today is clearly not what any sitting CEO signed up for (or even imagined) twenty, thirty or forty years ago. Therein one core problem of our failed industry leadership. Dee Hock said it best, to wit:

"When it became necessary to develop a new perception of things, a new internal model of reality, the problem is never to get new ideas in, the problem is to get the old ideas out. Every mind is filled with old furniture. It is familiar. It is comfortable. We hate to throw it out."

It remains my proffer that the serious challenge at hand is one of unlearning. For the record, my first blog post here in February of 2004 was prompted by a single concern - leadership. You can access that first post, The Fish Stinks at the Head First, here.

Sidebar: During thirty talks given this year I have made mention of my run heading an American broadcast group disclosing my thought that the results produced during my watch (in the 1980s and 90s) could have been replicated by an inflatable doll or stuffed animal assigned my role. My thought being this was not a singular experience, this replacement exercise would have proven equally successful at those other organizations led by my peers. Truth be known, we were all managing inventory, playing golf and/or tennis and doing very well without any serious sustained thought or discussion given to innovation. Those of us lucky enough to have strong general managers did just fine by staying out of the way as the money flowed into stations, it rained dollars. One would have needed a carefully detailed plan in order to fail. On the occasions group heads gathered, we would talk - beyond the usual lying to each other - people, markets, treasury (how we handled the money), exchange war stores of bad deals passed and share the hidden values of each others known acquisitions making published purchase prices seem very shrewd. Broadcast was our business and business was good.

As Mary Hopkin once sang "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end." Clearly, that party is over. I have rarely been challenged on this assertion. Those few times I have been called out, intellectual honesty prohibited my purchase of the kool-aid. Got no interest in joining those on an ice flow drifting to oblivion - those sharing the false belief, the plainly irrational delusion, that things will one day "come back." The opportunity rich reality of now holds far more appeal to me than the wayback machine. Game on.

Bonus: Tom Webster, the digital cool kid of Edison Research, has posted a writing that merits your attention. Read Social Media: Just A Hobby? via The Infinite Dial, here.

As always, you're comments are welcomed - please join the conversation. Thanks for stopping by. More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

"I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. Everyone has bad breaks, but everyone also has opportunities. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on." Samuel Goldwyn

"We must look for the opportunity in every difficulty instead of being paralyzed at the thought of the difficulty in every opportunity." Walter Cole

"Present opportunities are neglected, and attainable good is slighted, by minds busied in extensive ranges and intent upon future advantages." Samuel Johnson

Today's image: 316-317 by Mr. Moog. Outstanding shot. Thanks for sharing.

Recommending two books that merit your attention:

Roger L. Martin is dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. More about each book...

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Amzn)

The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking (Amzn)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Free gets you to a place where you can ask to get paid." Fred Wilson

"Great opportunities come to all, but many do not know they have met them. The only preparation to take advantage of them is simple fidelity to watch what each day brings." Albert Dunning

Today's image: Queen of the Skies by Tim de Groot. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Bravos: By far the best and brightest writer on the media beat, Robert Feder, returned this week. Thanks to Chicago Public Radio and their vocalo.org venture for making this happen. Must-reading for serious students of media. You may find Robert, here.

Bonus: Tom Webster is writing stuff you should be reading. His latest is a gem. The Least Efficient Post I've Ever Written via Edison Media's The Infinite Dial, here. While reading Tom's piece, Drucker came to mind, to wit: "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

As we approach the dawn of our codependent hyper-connectivity several two-word tropes are so white hot that I am - for reasons related to my day job insurance - required to don asbestos gloves before further keystroke is attempted. Here now, two of those...


Live Search

My thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick, one of the cool kids in residence at Read Write Web, for the tip on this video. Kudos to the leapfish gang, well done. (P.S. I agree with Marshall, should the search thing not work out you should seriously look into producing killer videos)