As the rate of change in the marketplace continues to accelerate, it’s critical for organizations to foster a culture of innovation and diversity of thought in order to keep pace. And that requires having a dialogue and culture of feedback within companies—not just top-down—execs said at the 2014 WICT Leadership Conference in NYC Mon.
Take HBO, which over the past 2-3 years has been working to create an organization that empowers employees and creates transparency and connectivity, according to Bernadette Aulestia, evp, domestic network distribution. “The ‘speak up’ culture is what’s changed most dramatically,” she said. “The best ideas don’t always come from the top.” To keep the creative ideas flowing, “you have to intentionalize creating forums” where people can talk about business ideas outside of their purview, she said.
At Univision, the philosophy is “everybody owns innovation,” said Jennifer Ball, evp, marketing & content partnerships. The company has implemented a “passion project” initiative, where employees are encouraged to embrace a business idea they’re passionate about. Over at Time Warner Cable Media, Joan Gillman, evp and COO, urges her team to attend conferences and report to others on what they learned. They’ve also added “salons” every other week, where employees talk about a hot topic—without PowerPoints (gasp!). “We’re trying to break down the barriers to communication,” she said, but in a way that’s organic and creates “the opportunities for feedback” without employees becoming defensive, she said.
Execs also noted that thinking outside the money box can encourage creativity. “We literally have no budget,” said Val Boreland, evp, head of programming & production, Revolt TV. “It’s true life for us.” But she’s found that if the idea’s good enough, it will pan out. “The really good ideas, you somehow figure it out,” she said. Still, it’s important to “find that executive sponsor” from the ground up, added Molly Battin, Turner’s chief media & business insights officer, since a higher up with influence will help usher it through the system.
Another prevalent idea making its way through the day’s panels was the notion of not only accepting failure and learning from it, but actually embracing it. Battin said one positive trend in the industry is something called “FailCon,” a conference where failure is actually celebrated. “At Turner we talk about building a culture that empowers people to take risks,” she said. “It’s important to build that into your culture.” “Be OK to fail” is Boreland’s advice—something that not-yet-rated Revolt TV is able to do. Of course that’s easier said than done for some companies—and executives. Mary Meduski, evp, CFO of Suddenlink, warned against letting “inertia” prevent you from stopping a bad idea. In the end, admitting failure and knowing when to course correct makes you a stronger leader.