Entovation International
Alliance Atlantis:
Broadcasting Knowledge Leadership

by Debra M. Amidon

We all know that the Knowledge Economy is one of communication – both human and technical. What we may not have realized is the leadership role to be played by the media in shaping new ways of learning, interaction and innovation. The coming decades will be based on social capital, the value of partnering and strategic alliances, cross-boundary relationships that traverse disciplines, functions and technologies – yes, the power of multi-media productions.

They came from all over Canada, representing a broad spectrum of media experts (e.g., Vision TV, Discovery Channel, Picture Plant Ltd., Eagle Vision, Le Reseau des Sports, Great North Productions, Teletoon Canada Inc., YTV – Canada, Cine-Groupe, Canadian Television Fund, WTN, CBC – Regional News and Current Affairs, and more. There were 37 in all – Presidents, Directors, Producers, VPs, Managing Directors, and Partners representing the leadership of the broadcast industry. Interestingly enough, the dates of the program coincided with the mega-merger of AOL and Turner Productions – allowing for considerable speculative debate.

Jim Byrd, Executive Director of the Alliance Atlantis Banff Television Executive Program, served as the prime host and Doug Macnamara, General Manager for the Banff Centre for Management convened a cadre of faculty specialists that included Mary Baetz, author of The Human Perspective: Planning for People in the Electronic Office, and executives-in-residence, such as John Cassaday (CEO, Corus Entertainment), Sara Diamond (Artistic Director, Media and Visual Arts for The Banff Centre), Ivan Fecan (CEO, CTV), George Gonzo (CEO, Cybersurf), Herbert A. Granath (Senior VP, ABC, and Chairman, ESPN), Roger Laughton (Bournemouth University) Michael MacMillan (Alliance Atlantis Communications), Trina McQueen (Executive VP, CTV), and Gabriela Pfaendner (NFP Teleart GMBH).

As with other Banff Executive Programs, participants completed the Executive Capability Chart – this time completely adapted for the Television Industry! The program is intended to prepare senior level television and production executives to further exploit their entrepreneurial and managerial skills, enabling them to meet the challenges of the evolving global marketplace. There were behavioral descriptions according to Strategic Thinking and Entrepreneurship, Market Positioning and Branding, Understanding and Connecting Industry Processes, Capitalizing upon Industry Change, Financial Communication and Risk Management, Large project Management and Maximizing Human Resources. Participants with supervisor feedback were able to define their learning objectives and draft a learning contract that was monitored with learning partners throughout the entire weeklong program.

Benefits of Learning Together

It is one thing for an executive to participate in such a residence experience and return to the organization able to assume higher management responsibility. It is quite another thing for several colleagues to enter into an intensive learning environment during which they can compare and contrast insight, debrief on potential strategies and then return to the organization geared for implementation. But this program was rather unique in that it provided that collaborative learning environment for essentially the next generation of television leadership.

We all know that many industries – especially in the services sector – have no grounds for collaboration, nor a platform for cooperative research. This residence experience provided a bootstrapping for young managers who have found themselves in executive positions without the benefit of any managerial courses or formal management training. The industry, by its very nature, is creative, innovative and in the state of constant change. Customer ‘intimacy’ is a given and operating on insight, intuition and imagination is the hallmark of success.

In knowledge terms, these individuals and their respective organizations – participants and faculty alike – formed a ‘Community of Knowledge Practice’ for the industry itself. They realized they had more in common than was different. Knowledge is the attribute that provides the future differentiation of products and services, not the technology or even the delivery mechanisms. So novel is this approach that the program is sure to become a beachhead for international learning on the topic spanning most continents in future programs. Already they have evidence of interest from The Netherlands and Mexico with other countries to soon follow suit.

Daily Learning Journal

Because the Banff Programs are largely experimental, participants are encouraged to think about each activity and make connections back to their unique circumstances. A small book was provided as a tool to capture thoughts and comments on sessions, great ideas raised by participants, diagrams and mind-maps, comments on action items, poetry, reflections on self-dialogue and collecting feedback..

This technique is not in-and-of-itself novel. What was exceptional was that each page carried a quote or verse that might be considered inspirational or thought provoking. Many of them were related to knowledge, ideas, action, innovation, opportunity, success, enthusiasm, imagination, dreams, intangible desire and more – all terms that provide a solid foundation for our future strategies. They include:

"Go out and buy yourself a five-cent pencil and a ten-cent notebook and begin to write down some million-dollar ideas." – Bob Grinde

"A lot of successful people are risk-takers. Unless you are willing to do that, to have a go, to fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen." – Philip Adam

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." – Gandhi

"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you can do." – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"It is a simple task that makes things complex, but a complex task to make them simple." – Meyer’s Law

"Don’t let anyone talk you out of pursuing what you know to be a great idea." – Anonymous

Well, you get the idea. As we proceed on a journey, there are simple phrases that can help us make connections that enable ourselves and our organizations to make progress. For a copy of the book and more information on Banff Centre Executive Programs, e-mail bcfm@banffcentre.ab.ca.

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