Leading the Next Generation of Workers and Customers: Leveraging the Social Network
Greg Jones on Traditioned Innovation

James F. McCaffrey on Leadership in a Technology Disrupted Organization

Today I'm attending the third day and last day of the Fuqua School of Business & Coach K Leadership Conference. 

I thought I would post my notes.  Disclaimer.  These are not exact transcription or exact quotes but rather just my rough notes. 

See also on Twitter:


11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Geneen Auditorium
Keynote Address

Leadership in a Technology Disrupted Organization

James F. McCaffrey, Executive Vice President, Operations & Strategy and Chief Strategy Officer, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Introduced by Bill Boulding, J.B. Fuqua Professor of Business Administration and Deputy Dean, The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

1. Technology Change is a Continuous Stream.

(as in water). It is moving from past and pushing us forward.

2. Disruption is Exponential and Uncertain.

We must recognize it early in the cycle.

3. The Whole Organization Must Embrace Technology and Related Opportunities (The Hardest Part)

“We are living in exponential times” Walter Cronkite 1963.

Media Technology Is Always Changing. 

Radio was introduced in 1920’s.  AT&T was largest and only phone company in the world.  AT&T were disinterested in radio. 

It took 30 minutes to warm up a camera for Cronkite’s announcement about JFK assassination. 

We are also living in exponential times.  :-)

Video Presentation:

India, China, TV, video games, phone, emails, created content on the web, radio, TV, Facebook, text message 1992, Internet early 1995, 1 out of 8 couples married in US in 2008 met online, 31 billion searches on Google this month, b.g. before google, 1 billion pieces of content Facebook this month, 240 million Facebook users 4th largest country, app, tweet, blogger, iPhone, books published yesterday, technical information to double every 72 hours, fiber optics, phone calls, just developing the switches, supercomputer capacity more than the human brain, $1,000 computer exceed capacity of whole human race. 

History of Turner

WTBS, Braves, CNN, CNN Headline News, NBA, MGM, TNT, Cartoon Network, Castle Rock, TCM (Turner Classic Movies), New Line Cinema, CNN.com

MGM: 5,000% return on investment

History of Turner Modern Era:

adult swim, CartoonNetwork.com, AOL, Nascar, PGA, PGA.com, CNN Pipeline, iReport, TBS.

iReport—at Virginia Tech all good footage was from cell phones.  But now there is editorial filter at iReport. 

Series of iPhone apps.

Under 25 years old audience watches “adult swim” late at night.  It is very edgy. 

CNN live streaming on iPhone. 

On 911, 2001, everyone ran to TV.  It is no longer necessary. 

How do we make our content available everywhere? 

It is a huge technical challenge. 

That is a troll through the company. 

The whole company has to become change agents to understand the audience. 

The last five years were the fastest growing in company’s history. 

Technology is our friend. 

Inauguration of president and death of Michael Jackson are the most widely viewed in internet history—both on CNN.com.

How today lunar landing would be covered by TV if it happened today video.

Audience Question and Answer Period (12:05-12:25)

a. How do you maintain all of the infrastructure and still grow? 

I protect the money.  I have smart people who help me distribute capital.  Internet pennies vs. television dollars.  It is more difficult with television than news.  With news everything is packaged together. 

b. How do you get people to pay attention to the brand and not just the TV show which migrates from network to network?

We believe passionately in brands.  People use that as a filter.  TBS and TNT have grown.  Our friends at the networks turned their back on the brand.  What does NBC stand for?  We are huge believers in brands.  After Ted Turner left we made: TBS—funny; TNT dramas.  (Sports are another issue). 

c. How do you think strategically about the future?

We learn from the past.  We are big believers in the hypothetical situation.  Understand your industry and company past.  Three years after JFK assassination in 1966, NBC could not find any profit motive for color television. 

d.  Technology seems more obvious in your area in the media.  Your background is consumer products and brand management.  How would your apply technology to your past pursuits? 

The microwave oven was at first just warming water.  We invented microwave popcorn. 

e. What does great leadership look like at Turner?

We believe in communication and mechanisms to hear what employees are thinking.  As we get bigger, I worry it is going to get more and more difficult.  I have asked employees, how can we solve this collaboration problem?  We are a stable management team.  We work for the employees.  Leadership we try to make a management science just like accounting or technology.  We do lots of training.  Part of the compensation package is related to leadership goals.  We tried not to lower headcount—lay people off—and it has worked. 

f. How do you measure leadership in terms of performance? 

We try to measure positive things.  Matrix: collaboration and prioritizing.  But I worry that we do not punish the non-collaborator.  I try to be ruthless with non-collaborators.  Technical groups are often led by good leaders without technical expertise in that area.  We value good leaders. 

g. Are you leveraging social networking? 

No, we’re not.  I’m overwhelmed with information.  We have pilots about sharing documents.  We take CNN very seriously as core to our company—greater importance than its revenue.  It is important to know what people think about us.  Multi-cultural issues are also related.  How do we make sure that Hispanic Americans, African-Americans and women want to tune into us?  We are achieving this according to the ratings.  But we are not so naive to think social networking is not important. 

h. CNN used to be about war footage and now it is about a lot more. 

We passionately believe that CNN sits in the middle of the spectrum—with relatively less bias.  Headline News has changed to HLN with opinion as its focus.  People tune in for a long time so it is profitable.  Nancy Grace on HLN is popular whether you like her or not.