When Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt joined Google in his 40s, he was sure to know anything needed to run a successful company. Leadership skills, business plans, and an innovative approach: He looked well prepared in 2001.
After a short period of time at Google HQ, he became aware of the Socratic paradox: “I know that I know nothing.“
Today, he says, “we quickly learned that almost everything we thought we knew about managing businesses was dead wrong.” He saw several companies handling the digital challenge and describes his observation this way:
- “Their design is a vestige of an era when failure was expensive and deliberation was a virtue.”
- “Information and data [are] hoarded, not shared. Decision-making power lies in the hands of the few.”
- “Most companies are slow by design.”
These days, he puts his learning in a breath-taking presentation that has spread around the world and delivers more than just a few insights on how to align a company. It’s a blueprint for any media company in the Internet age.
His biggest advice is: “Listen to the lab coat, not the suits, and get the lab coats to produce prototypes, not slideware.”
Ask yourself: What would Google do with your media company?
We all know that information is available whenever you take your mobile device anywhere, anytime. Cloud technology “puts a supercomputer in your pocket.”
We see the impact: Barriers to entry are low, and anyone can publish and can find an audience.
Schmidt confesses: “Power has shifted from companies to consumers, and expectations have been even higher. Companies can’t get away with having crummy products, at least not for long.” Within companies, individuals and small teams have a “massive impact” on what is going on. Their ideas can change market conditions.
- “Create superior products based on unique technical insights.”
- “Optimise for growth, not revenue.”
- “Know the competition, but don’t follow it.”
Thus, Schmidt’s conclusion was to hire special kinds of game changers: “We learned that the only way for businesses to consistently succeed today is to attract smart creative employees and create an environment where they can thrive at scale.”
Wow! Organisational alignment is a compelling leadership issue. The newsroom survey INMA initiated some weeks ago indicates that the path of change is still long or longer than expected.
Based on the questionnaire, just 60% of work is done to fully integrate online business in the daily routine of media companies worldwide. The willingness to change is high among the employees (culture 65% and education 63%), but there’s a lack of modern infrastructure (60%) and tasks given to the employees (only 52%).
Schmidt encourages companies to do their homework and create an environment fit to the Internet century: “Opportunity is everywhere. Smart creatives are everywhere. (…) But remember, the CEO needs to be the chief innovation officer. Innovation can’t be owned or ordained, it needs to be allowed. You can’t tell innovative people to be innovative, but you can let them.”
It isn’t enough to give journalists tools to use; you need to change the culture they work in.
But how do you do that? How can you create this environment that enables people to look for the new compelling ideas needed? How can you endorse these ideas and promote entrepreneurial individuals like Fany Péchiodat and Richard Gutjahr, who can’t be stopped by the terror of average?
Schmidt says: “It’s not about everyone agreeing. It’s about everyone being heard and then rallying around the best answer.”