You See What You Want To see

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve been deeply involved with exploration into the Millennial generation for the past 18 months, and it’s an interesting venture.

No matter what we find in the research, there are people that are going to see the group as slackers, entitled, living with mom and dad, and even the generation that will destroy America.  The truth is that Millennials are an exciting generation that will bring huge, important changes to society that are good, as well as their own “lens” on life.  I was at a meeting with some interns last week, and I left the meeting feeling very optimistic and excited to see what the future holds with these talented people.

But, no matter what research we present, or how many Millennials they talk to, some people will only see them through the lens of their own interpretation or perspective. They aren’t able to see the potential good, only the negative image portrayed by the media.  Some of those who are unable to change their interpretations will miss an opportunity to build a sustainable media palate that appeals to Millennials, and will wind up fading away with the boomer generation.

Whether you are a small, single station in the Midwest, or a larger broadcast organization on the West Coast, or yes…a Network, you’re going to be impacted by the Millennials, a generation significantly larger than the boomers.  Simple facts of life – like nobody gets out alive – means that things are going to change.  Every day, 10,000 baby boomers file for social security. It’s inevitable.

But it’s not “bad.”  Do your own investigation of the generation, talk with them and really listen, understand how they’re different, and how they’re not.  Embrace the change, and ask for their help in navigating through the changes.  Don’t just sit there complaining while the juggernaut gets closer and closer, and finally runs right over you.


The Secret To Bigger Is Better

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.”  Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled


Yes, it’s a different “programming,” but the message is the same.

Everyone wants bigger.  It’s part of radio and part of our culture.  We seem obsessed with having the biggest city, the tallest building, the busiest airport or the largest house. Of course that’s why the universe is winning.  We tend to forget the difference between David and Goliath.

But the term “bigger is better” isn’t true very often.  First we have to look at the words themselves. “Bigger” is a quantitative word, while “better” is an ambiguous qualitative word.  But most of the time people don’t realize they’re playing that bigger vs. better game.  It’s just to say that having a lot of listeners isn’t the same as satisfying a lot of listeners.  Given a choice, I’d rather be involved in the best situation than I would be the biggest.  Big get’s attention, but best get’s things done.

So what do you want, quantitative or qualitative?  Biggest, or best?

P.S.  You CAN have both, but you need to start with the qualitative.

Leading Change

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”-Socrates


Change is not easy.  It’s confusing, unclear and perplexing.  It’s hard to pursue something when it means what you know, and have become expert at, is becoming less and less relevant.  It’s natural to fight change, to deny it and ignore it.

However, every leader is a change agent, for better or worse.  They can move their organization forward, or keep it where it is.  Either one is change, because as the world morphs and grows, if you do nothing, you’re effecting change.  Just not in a positive way.

The most fundamental principle of change can be found in your mirror.  When we’re not looking into the mirror it’s easy to fool ourselves that we’re the same people we were 10 years ago.  But we’re not.  If change were’t a real factor, we’d still have 8 tracks and AM radio would be on top.  People wouldn’t be watching TV less to an alarming level (which they are), Netflix would have failed, and no one would “get” Pandora.

Real leadership is understanding change, and adapting to the opportunities it offers. Those who can do that will survive and thrive, those who can’t will be forever cemented to a past that doesn’t exist any more…and is being outdated everyday.

Innovate the Pixar way

The thing about working at Pixar is that everyone around you is smarter and funnier and cleverer than you and they all think the same about everyone else. It’s a nice problem to have.” – Andrew Stanton


Authors Bill Capodagli & Lynn Jackson, in their book “Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground,” suggest that “Pixar is a “playground” that will inspire you to:

– Dream like a child.
– Believe in your playmates.
– Dare to jump in the water and make waves.
– Do unleash your childlike potential

I don’t know about you, but I want to work in a playground like that!

One other Pixar secret is that they pay both the creative and technical people the same money.  They realize they are BOTH important to their success.  The greatest story y0u come up with isn’t going to do much if it isn’t translated through the technology.  Think programming and IT, or programming and engineering.

Everyone at your organization has a place and purpose, and if they don’t you need to get rid of them.  True leaders will understand the value of all, not just one.


If You’re Seeing Enemies Within You Need To Get Out

“Employers have gone away from the idea that an employee is a long-term asset to the company, someone to be nurtured and developed, to a new notion that they are disposable.” – Barbara Ehrenreich


When you talk to a lot of people everyday, you can see things through different eyes.  Sometimes I wind up in conversations where someone is complaining…a lot…about distrust of the people they work for. It seems like there’s a return to the thinking of the past where employees are just cogs who are expected to unthinkingly follow directions. Remember the grey people from the Apple TV sport named “1984?”

But the new twist on this is that you must distrust them, and always make sure they aren’t taking advantage and are working hard enough. There’s even a business rationale for this – increased efficiency. The “do more with less” strategy.

Somewhere someone decided to write a business book about efficiency, taking the perspective people are lazy and could do more than they were. That concept was sufficiently simplistic and shallow enough that it became an instant “quick fix” success. Cutting the workforce by 40% became a badge of honor.

This has all but destroyed growth in radio. First PD’s were cut, and one was in charge of 3-4 stations. Then high paying talent that wouldn’t take a 50% cut. Then “unnecessary” executives, and finally, salespeople. So many of the top executives have replaced long-term concern for the industry with their own short-term financial goals. Leadership has been replaced with dictatorship, so naturally the answer to self-inflicted problems is to blame those shiftless employees. We’ve divided into three types of organizations, (1) those who really don’t care about people, (2) those who distrust people, and (3) those who see a time like this as one to build great, people-oriented organizations that produce crazy good return.  Think Zappos.

The people I work with are amazing, dedicated, hard-working and even fun to be around.  We ALL know that we are all working toward the same end.  I don’t have a good guy/bad guy mentality.  If someone isn’t hardworking or dedicated, then it calls for some tough conversations and action.  I won’t subject my people to a cancer of dissatisfaction.

If you really think about the future, like Jefferson did, while acting in the day, you understand the value of talent, good leaders, and hard workers as an asset of the organization.  Not a liability, not a line item expense, an asset.  Spreadsheets don’t make organizations strong or innovative or valuable…or even failures.  It’s your people.