On the first day of AdWeek, I had the opportunity to attend the Fast Company CEO Conversation. The panel included editor of Fast Company Magazine, Robert Safian, CEO of The Weather Channel, David Kenny, CEO of MDC, Miles Nadal, CEO of Bloomberg Media, Justin Smith, and CEO of the Jim Stengel Company, Jim Stengel.
The discussion was centered around navigating companies forward, procuring top talent, the rate of change, and identifying and capitalizing on opportunity. There was a particular emphasis on what it means to be a modern-day media CEO and the importance of allowing failure.
Justin Smith is currently dealing with what he referred to as, “being a wartime general in a foggy battlefield.” In other words, he is experiencing being a leader in a perpetually evolving industry where the path isn’t always clear. This viewpoint resonated with the entire panel, which seemed to agree that the ability to deal with ambiguity is paramount to a successful run in media.
The problem with making choices in times of uncertainty is that it can often lead to failure. The CEOs said that they encourage an entrepreneurial spirit where failure is not punished. David Kenny employees are fearful of failure because of the risk of criticism, but mere complacency with ‘norms’ can lead to a stagnant business.
A key takeaway, which is true in commerce & life in general: no risk, no reward
Smith is currently trying to expand Bloomberg Media’s reach beyond the confines of Wall Street. The main barrier to entry is Bloomberg’s legacy within the financial reporting industry. Part of the challenge, according to Smith, is going to be procuring the proper talent to transform the business. Believing that talent drives the business, Smith has been vigilant with his hiring decisions and aims to choose candidates with “start-up mentalities.” Others on the panel agreed that proper talent is imperative to successful leadership. Kenny emphasized the importance of making the overall mission of the organization known across the company. He also spoke of the need to show gratitude to employees when they’re doing well, and treating employees as human beings and not just operational assets.
The lessons from this seminar can be applied to every capability within DH. As executives, marketers, creatives, and every other capability within this company, we must embrace risk and change to evolve and stay ahead of the curve. When it comes to our personal professional development, we should avoid complacency and take some chances. Last, as emphasized by all CEOs on the panel, we must value the talent in each other & ensure that the mission of DH is universally understood across all capabilities.
– Keegan Wallace, Analyst