Tuesday, 23 October 2007

BBC, Let Go of Your Comfort Blanky.

In times of accelerated and discontinuous change, there is (all to often) a reflex to cling to the past. To hold on to what we know well. A kind of comfort blanket.

Comfort blankets and corporations alike, there is a long list of companies that went out of business because they failed to embrace the future.


When mains feed electricity arrived, instead of moving into incandescent lamps, gas and kerosene lamp manufacturers diligently polished their old lamp designs; coming up with wondrously efficient, quite ingenious concepts. Yet, all of the hundred or so mechanical lamp outfits went out of business within a decade.

The same story surrounds the US railway firms, as freeways and commercial airlines took off. In the same vein, Vaudeville vanished and Hollywood barely escaped being totally ravished by TV; most showbiz companies simply disappeared. Again, the reliability and plain availability of newfangled Electric Motors cut the Steam Engine to ribbons.

The lesson:

Instead of moving forward into the changing reality, the vanguard of the future, these companies honed incumbent strategies. They clung to their comfort blanket, their anxiety crutch of the past.

Compare this to companies and individuals that revolutionise their business strategies:

General Electric, a giant business that was exclusively into big machines like Jet Turbines, Hydro Electric Dams, and Theatre Lighting, etc. Then came the Capital Markets and Electronic Commerce. But instead of just getting lean and improving quality in their lumps of metal businesses (which incidentally they did to the highest standards) CEO Jack Welch (recently retired) transformed GE into the world’s number one consumer finance company. A radical depart from chunks of iron.

Virgin Group never stands still, willing to let go of much beloved core businesses. Virgin sold Virgin Records to gain the investment capital to pump-up their airline business (just as the likes of Napster and MP3 showed up… Smart!). And they did it again with Virgin Radio to develop Virgin Media. Today, Virgin Group is a $25 billion outfit, in markets that many a business has folded.

But this bold innovation strategy doesn’t stop at corporate door.

Radio Head are developing web-based music distribution. They’re also letting fans set a price for down-loading recordings. Instead, they’re asking aficionados to set the price on a purchase (a penny, a pound, eight quid, or what?). Then further enable fans (who bought their web-based product) to get into certain Night Clubs and Gigs at greatly reduced admission.

Madonna recently walked away from Warner Music Group Corp and signed a £100 million landmark deal with concert promoter Live Nation Inc. She said, ‘The paradigm in the music business has shifted and as an artist and a business woman, I have to move with that shift…. For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited. I've never wanted to think in a limited way and with this new partnership, the possibilities are endless.’

So a question: who are now your competition? An important question in these times of tidal wave change.

Let’s take the case of the BBC. Who, now, are their predators?

Well, it’s not simply ITV, Sky or Channel 4.

The BBC’s Nine O’Clock News main rival is not purely ITN’s News at Ten.

BBC Radio 1 to 7 is not merely in opposition with incumbents Juice or Classic FM.

No, not in the least.

It’s nascent cyberspace outfits like Joost, YouTube, and Channelchooser. It’s laptop desktop clips and IPodcasts. It’s the Ministry-of-Sound, Helterskelter, Space and Oasis online Channels. It’s even across the pond, but now online Fox News and ABC. These are the entrepreneurial ether outfits that are blazing the TV and Radio trail.

BBC, let go of your comfort blanky. Get radical!

Here’s some Hyperinnovation tips:

End territorial TV by 2014. Bandwidth capacity to carry real-time high definition TV will there.

Scale down your admin work force, and redeploy admin staff to technical, production and creative roles.

Create an ‘any and all’ web-based TV on demand multichannel, and put all programming on online. Want to watch an episode of Handcocks Half Hour or Hill Street Blue? Down load it.

Create individual channels for all popular TV programs: an Eastenders channel, a Blue Peter channel, an Horizon channel, and so forth.

Democratise viewing, by integrating a vote casts to lead what’s on-line.

Regular pod cast the most popular.

Simultaneously take bigger risks in programming.

Make at least half the programming short 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute programs (it’s a time crunched world).

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