Published on: November 23, 2009Just some random thoughts to consider as we begin a holiday week...
• The big news over the weekend - even getting more attention that the health care debate in the US Senate - was the announced decision by Oprah Winfrey to give up her highly rated and still influential syndicated television program in 2011 after 25 seasons.
What makes this decision so interesting is not that a lot of people are going to have to find something else to watch during the day, but because it may in fact signal something much more profound that is taking place - the death of broadcast television.
It isn’t the only signpost indicating the direction that television may be taking, of course. There are the dwindling ratings for most of the programs on the mainstream broadcast networks, which increasingly seem to have a problematic business model. The decision by NBC to schedule “The Jay Leno Show” on Monday through Friday evenings at 10 pm, not because it was better but because it was cheaper, was akin to throwing in the towel on competitiveness.
Cable television, which depends less on ad revenue and is less expensive to produce - and often more adventuresome in terms of theme and content - is growing in dominance, as reflected in the apparent likelihood that cable company Comcast will acquire NBC and all its cable networks from General Electric.
The thing is, it wasn’t that long ago that broadcast television was such a big deal that, well GE couldn’t wait to get into it. There were must-see evenings of television that featured shows like “Cosby” and “Seinfeld” and “ER,” but that seems like another century, which, in fact, it was. People’s tastes changed, technology changed, and then habits changed, and suddenly Jay Leno is telling stale jokes during the time slot that “Hill Street Blues” used to rule, Oprah is going into the cable business, and NBC is up for sale.
It is, I think, an important lesson for business people of any stripe. When change comes, it comes not with press releases and trumpets and plenty of notice, but slowly, steadily and with a creeping ferocity that means that often it overtakes us before we even know what has happened. And suddenly, we’re obsolete.
That’s what has happened to the newspaper business. It happened to the music business. It’s happening to the television business. And it is happening in retail, as it inevitably must.
And so the question is what you are doing to anticipate the moment of change, as opposed to denying its steady advance or trying to delay it as long as possible. Because the winners are likely to be those who embrace change and make it work for them.
• There was an excellent interview in Sunday’s New York Times with William D. Green, chairman/CEO of Accenture, in which he made two comments that stood out to me.
First, he spoke about the tools necessary to succeed in business:
“I once sat through a three-day training session in our company, and this was for new managers, very capable people who were ready for a big step up. I counted, over three days, 68 things that we told them they needed to do to be successful, everything from how you coach and mentor, your annual reviews, filling out these forms, all this stuff.
“And I got up to close the session, and I’m thinking about how it isn’t possible for these people to remember all this. So I said there are three things that matter. The first is competence — just being good at what you do, whatever it is, and focusing on the job you have, not on the job you think you want to have. The second one is confidence. People want to know what you think. So you have to have enough desirable self-confidence to articulate a point of view. The third thing is caring. Nothing today is about one individual. This is all about the team, and in the end, this is about giving a damn about your customers, your company, the people around you, and recognizing that the people around you are the ones who make you look good.
“When young people are looking for clarity — this is a huge, complex global company, and they wonder how to navigate their way through it — I just tell them that.”
The second comment was about hiring, and Green told this story
“If you get down to it, it’s what have you learned, what have you demonstrated, what behaviors do you have? Have you shown intuition? Have you shown the ability to synthesize and act? Have you shown the ability to step up and make a choice? How have you dealt with the hand in front of you, played it out?
“I was recruiting at Babson College. This was in 1991. The last recruit of the day — I get this résumé. I get the blue sheet attached to it, which is the form I’m supposed to fill out with all this stuff and his résumé attached to the top. His résumé is very light — no clubs, no sports, no nothing. Babson, 3.2. Studied finance. Work experience: Sam’s Diner, references on request.
“It’s the last one of the day, and I’ve seen all these people come through strutting their stuff and they’ve got their portfolios and semester studying abroad. Here comes this guy. He sits. His name is Sam, and I say: ‘Sam, let me just ask you. What else were you doing while you were here?’ He says: ‘Well, Sam’s Diner. That’s our family business, and I leave on Friday after classes, and I go and work till closing. I work all day Saturday till closing, and then I work Sunday until I close, and then I drive back to Babson.’ I wrote, ‘Hire him,’ on the blue sheet.
“He’s still with us, because he had character. He faced a set of challenges. He figured out how to do both ... It’s work ethic. You could see the guy had charted a path for himself to make it work with the situation he had. He didn’t ask for any help. He wasn’t victimized by the thing. He just said, ‘That’s my dad’s business, and I work there.’ Confident. Proud.”
I just thought that was a great story, worth sharing.
• Finally, if you want to read a terrific column that lays out in precise language what is wrong with government, check out yesterday’s New York Times column by Thomas L. Friedman. Click here > This piece of writing - and thinking - works on a lot of levels, and is worth paying attention to.
Just some thoughts...
- KC's View: