Monday, September 27, 2010

The Way

When I first started working at CBS in the late eighties I was introduced to The Way.  The Way referred to how we did business. Adapting to the way and understanding the way was in direction proportion to the way you fared in the company.

I welcomed the way.  The company I worked at previously was at the time a fledgling broadcaster. There was no way there. You made up the way as you went along.

The idea of a having a distinct set of rules and parameters seemed refreshing to me. I didn't question the way, at least not immediately. After all CBS had a history of success. Whatever the way was it must be the right way. Sounds rather naive now, doesn't it?

When we 'merged' with Westinghouse in the early nineties I saw for the first time what happens when two different ways join. It didn't take long before it was clear that the Westinghouse way was the new direction. There was nothing particularly new or innovative about their way. It was just a different way. Some things would prove beneficial  and others, like the brief period they decided to list the new company as Westinghouse, only to discover it did not help the stock price because people thought of Westinghouse as light bulb manufacturers and not broadcasters, would prove short lived.

But it was also the first time I started to hear the choruses of but that is not the way we do things and but we've always done it like this among my colleagues, myself included.  Change was coming and it didn't feel as exciting and wonderful as it was being spun.

I thought about that time today when I was reading about  Lewis D'Vorkin's new editorial model for the Forbes website in Advertising Age.  I'm still not clear on how innovative it actually is. From my advertising and writing background it seems to be putting the television concept of paid advertorials on line in the form of advertiser provided blogs. The controversial part, as it always has been in television, is how to make clear the distinction between what is unbiased news and what is advertising.

In any case I can hear the internal chorus of that is not they way things are done here all the way uptown. Change is uncomfortable. Change is questioned. Change is resisted.  Change is scary.

And we never really know for sure as change is occurring that it is the right way to go. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces. But shaking up the way things have been done is a necessary part of our culture at this moment in time. So we try.

What I learned from those naive CBS days is that sometimes having a way is good and sometimes being able to make it up as you go is even better. But doing something just because that is the way we've always done it is never good. And in today's ever changing world serves no one, least of all ourselves.


What are you doing today just because it's "the way" you always have?
What one thing can you try that will be different?
Post a Comment