From railroads to satellites, the CBC has been with Canada, innovating us into connecting a vast and diverse country. Now they are giving it back to us to connect to one another on our own.
By Lorenzo Somma
Published November 08, 2011
A recent announcement by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has caused waves of adulation and anticipation among the citizenry of Hamilton. The epicentre of this wake came from Executive Vice President Kirstine Stewart, when she recently announced CBC's plan to bring digital news media services to the city of Hamilton.
She also made special note of the important role Hamilton will play as a key innovator for the CBC's new media strategy. "Hamilton, for us, will actually be the centre of innovation for the CBC and we are going to learn from it how we can serve Canadians better across the country."
This excites me because the CBC is demonstrating and acting on a horizontal business structure in which every citizen becomes an important part of a shared success. They accomplish this by sharing their vision with all Canadians, and whether they know it or not they have perfectly demonstrated how real business strategy can create real change and bring an organization to its final goal no matter how difficult the task may be.
CBC's new five-year strategy, "Everyone. Every Way." is set up to empower not only their own people but also the Canadian public to become real stakeholders in the CBC organization. Indeed, for their goal to succeed there is likely no other way.
Small Business owners, and those of the creative class who have yet to join the forlorn ranks of the "entrepreneurialization", take note of what is being built today. If you are wise, you will listen and watch as this genius move by the CBC empowers you to master the art and science of business strategy.
The CBC has done this by making true leadership the very fibre of their being. The true leader knows that leadership is only powerful when used to inspire and create leadership in its wake. For this, CBC, I salute you.
At the heart of true leadership is not the ability to give orders or marshal resources (yes those are important elements) but to make sure that the outcome is one where you surround yourself with leaders, who have been instilled with the values required to create leadership further still.
If done properly, you end up a highly organized, highly adaptable and very horizontal organizational structure.
In a world based on hierarchies and bureaucracies, the notion that an organization as large as the CBC would venture into such risky, progressive seas on a vessel whose very purpose is to confront the armada that is the status quo, is not only inspirational, it's electrifying!
And after reviewing the five-year strategy in its entirety (as a local-economy, community-minded Canadian patriot and businessman), I must say: This strategy fits together nicely.
The overall strategy can be broken down like this:
The CBC will be the recognized leader in expressing Canadian Culture and will enrich the demographic life of all Canadians by 2015. (TIP: Notice that this vision is concise and has a deadline. All visions should have a deadline.)
Click the "Play Video" on the CBC's About Page for a message from CBC CEO.
The first big point is how public this strategy has been made. The CBC truly wants Canadians to be a part of this Strategy and become real stakeholders. In a way, we are being empowered to share the experiences and emotions that we need to have expressed. The strategy is comprehensive, easy to read and speaks in volumes about the CBC's overall goal. Everyone. Every Way. Not everything to everybody.
The first rule I present when I speak of Strategic Positioning is: When you try to be everything to everyone, you will end up being nothing to no one.
Everyone. Every Way. This Strategy may seem to imply everything to everyone, but in fact is quite the opposite. The CBC knows they cannot be everything to everyone; instead they have taken on a Variety-based Strategic Position. In business strategy, this position requires that an organization acknowledges that its customer reach is vast and many, but the way in which the organization will service their many customers are very specific.
An excellent example of this Strategic Position (beyond CBC) is Jiffy Lube. Jiffy Lube's customer base is anyone with a car (that is a big base), But Jiffy Lube only services these customers in a very specific way, automotive lubricants. Because of this focus (and other parts of their winning strategy) Jiffy Lube has built a very profitable business.
The CBC's customer reach is the Citizens of Canada, and the specific service they aim to provide is being the way citizens connect to and are a part of their news. They are not being the news everyone wants them to be or report, instead they seek to be part of every Canadians life, in the way that each individual Canadian wishes them to be. They are the will, you are the way. Thus if you are the way, you need to become part of the very fabric of this new organization model.
A business model that actually makes its customers part of it organizational structure, requires a very different way of thinking. Where a hierarchy or command and control structure's, customers are the end users of the product, a reverse model would have customer as producers. This can be looked at as a reverse pyramid (though I prefer to think of it as more of a sphere).
This idea is at the core of the CBC five-year strategy in two important ways. The first is the Collaborative elements that has been built into its employment structure; the Second is the concept of Innovation Disruption that is also built into the strategies structure. When used properly, both these tools build an almost anti-institutional model, one capable of rapid adaptation and innovation.
At the core of this strategy, the CBC states how essential their people will be in making their vision come true. In order for any strategy to work properly, you must have everyone on your team aware and on board with your vision.
This concept is often lost on many organizations - small businesses, big businesses, municipalities - who, through one act or another, tend to compartmentalize their work force. The thought process being "in order to maintain control of the organization as a whole, each section is on a need-to-know basis."
This model may have been effective in the past, but spells doom for the modern organization. In order to stay on top, you must ensure that every part of the organization knows and is working towards your vision in his or her own way.
The CBC is doing this by pushing down decision making to employees and managers, distributing leadership, empowering people to make choices, to fail and succeed and be objective of their efforts.
This is an invaluable lesson all businesses (especially small) should learn. When all your staff is empowered with leadership, your customers that encounter them will feel empowered too. This is crucial if your end goal is to get the public on board with your vision, and really every business should want the public on board with their vision. If your employees don't feel it, neither will your customers. This fits very well with what the CBC is trying to accomplish.
Innovation Disruption are new technologies and ideas that can be very disruptive to profit margins/maintaining the status quo. Thus institutions generally shun, ignore and even fear truly innovative concepts until it is absolutely necessary to incorporate them (or becomes extinct).
Since the CBC's goal is to connect with Canadians in Every Way, embracing Innovation Disruption and having staff that are at the forefront of innovation with the confidence to make decisions, will allow the CBC to adapt quickly to new ideas and technologies, giving them an edge against other less able firms.
Another great lesson for today's small business owner: if your goal is to connect to people in "Every Way" you need to be aware that the "Way" is going to change very rapidly. To stay on top of this change, you too will need to change rapidly too.
This is only achievable if constant Innovation Disruption is built in your business structure, and that your people have the authority and ability to incorporate these innovations on your behalf.
That takes trust. Trust that your staff know the goal and are every ready and able to get the organization to it. With everything I have seen in this strategy, I think the CBC is setting a new standard for how organizations build symbiotic relationships with their staff and ultimately their customers.
While only introducing the "Digital" key way of the CBC's strategy in Hamilton, the other two "Ways" are also served (More National and Regional Space). The CBC is well aware that this strategy will focus on the 37% of Canadians not tuning into CBC on TV regularly.
One needs only watch the commercials during The National to know who is the CBC's main audience demographic focus. If you are looking to buy life insurance, don't want to burden your family with funeral costs, are looking for a stand up bath tub, or need advice on coming to the end of your mortgage payments: you are likely watching the CBC.
Like the J.J. Abrams of the rebooted Star Trek, the CBC knows who is already watching and who will continue to watch. This strategy is for all the other people who are not "Out of their Vulcan Minds". By rewriting the rules and bringing a new player (the audience itself) into the game, the CBC will rebrand itself as the Canadian Voice of news and entertainment. Everyone. Every Way.
The mandates set out by the Broadcasting Act of 1991 are at the heart of the CBC's new five-year strategy. The Everyone. Every Way strategy is powered by this mandate and by focusing on key elements of this act, the very landscape of the Creative Class of Hamilton could be on the verge of an entrepreneurial renaissance.
Specifically the CBC will seek to: (from the act)
the programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should
(i) be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes,
(ii) be drawn from local, regional, national and international sources,
(iii) include educational and community programs,
(iv) provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern, and
(v) include a significant contribution from the Canadian independent production sector;
(r) the programming provided by alternative television programming services should
(i) be innovative and be complementary to the programming provided for mass audiences,
(ii) cater to tastes and interests not adequately provided for by the programming provided for mass audiences, and include programming devoted to culture and the arts,
(iii) reflect Canada's regions and multicultural nature,
(iv) as far as possible, be acquired rather than produced by those services, and
(v) be made available throughout Canada by the most cost-efficient means;
If the CBC is seeking to not only be innovative and wholly Canadian, but also a bottom heavy structural mandate that:
(iv) as far as possible, be acquired rather than produced by those services, and
(v) be made available throughout Canada by the most cost-efficient means;
We will see a CBC that is empowering our various Creative individuals to produce content and share it with all Canadians, exposing individual Canadians to a creative perspective that truly syncs up with their own personal perspective.
I have long felt that our 'creative class' and those among the artistic community are not being given their due, and the due they are being given is one based on an archaic concept I am going to call Artistic Feudalism.
Like days of Olde, our creative class has become reliant on grants made to them by patrons, by feudal lords on whom the artist is completely dependent for financial and other resources.
These 'Lords' change every few years and can make great shifts in the funding grants or even what "art" will be considered culturally significant, and thus receive the funding to make a living and produce more.
Let me be clear, I think the Arts do require resources as I feel it to be the industry of the future. If the only way to get those resources and not be required to "sell out" to the corporate masses, is through grants, then so be it.
What I am an advocate for is a creative class that is self-determined, where the industry standard is imagination and innovation that is at the heart of the small/local business economy of the future. Creative workers should be free of Patron grants and able to sustain themselves in their own right.
The creative class of Hamilton will become their own Patrons whose goal and mission will be connecting their expression with those who seek to invest in that expression. An entrepreneurial Creative Class. A Digital CBC Hamilton will help our Creative citizens connect with their audience. (For the record I believe in an 'investment' economy and not our haphazard consumer economy.)
The economic opportunities will be made available to those who are not yet entrepreneurs, and made even better to those in the creative community who are already building businesses around creative endeavours.
One of the main goals of the Everyone. Every Way strategy will be teaming up with local partners who are already in the game. I would not be surprised at all if the creative advertising of businesses like KiteString will soon become commonplace when the CBC begins connecting with Hamiltonians - or for the already built NewsClipTV, which has taken to the online scene of Hamilton all sorts of new content and community offerings.
The CBC will be looking to partner with firms like these, which will make these firms even more successful adding even further to the strong, local, small business economy of Hamilton.
In the end, the CBC is a publicly owned corporation, which makes us all shareholders. The Vision, Mission and Values behind Everyone. Every Way have all the required components to succeed. When they do, the financial and organizational structures of this city will begin to ponder and internalize how they too can rebuild their organizations into ones that incorporate collaboration and innovation into their structural fabrics.
They will learn how top-heavy institutions are ill-equipped for the adaption, engagement and empowerment which in the world of tomorrow will be a prerequisite to success. They will learn firsthand how citizens can change their own local/personal destinies, when given the proper tools, motivations and leadership.
I encourage everyone to look at what the CBC seeks to achieve and decide in which way you want to be part of it.
From railroads to satellites, the CBC has been with Canada, innovating us ever still into connecting a vast and diverse country. Now they are giving it all back to us to connect to one another on our own.
From our very foundations, we have been a people of more than one perspective, we are of a shared destiny, a parliament of dreams to which many differing voices have chosen to come together. Everyone. Every Way.
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