Commentary

CBC Digital Plan a Model for Entrepreneurs

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:

Vision:

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.)

Key methods:

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;

AND

 (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.

Everything I do, I believe that the labour force of the New Economy is the Entrepreneur; Creativity the New Bottom Line.

I achieve this by inspiring leadership, sharing experiences and through practicing resilience which teaches us to embrace life for how it is; unpredictable, emergent, evolving and adapting.

My name is Lorenzo Somma and I am a strategic planner and entrepreneurial motivator.

You are awesome.

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By Bumper Music (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 11:05:23

Can't wait to see how it unfolds. Until then, I have very little idea of what it'll be aside from a publicly funded digital operation with five employees.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 11:21:11

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By theOther (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 19:57:00 in reply to Comment 71133

This must surely be the end of days, as I find myself agreeing (albeit only partially) with the entity known as 'Capitalist'. CBC is under existential attack, and is reacting as any other organization would do to make a case for its continuing relevance. That said, as a daily listener of Radio One, I was deeply disappointed to learn that Waterloo won bureau status (which Hamilton enjoyed previously) while our sorry little burg of 500,000 on the fringe of GTA got relegated to the Third Division. I hear weekly from Friends of the CBC about the dire status of the mothercorp, and contribute as my means allow, but this just stings. Aside from Jian Gomeshi's occasional (patronizing)references to 'The Hammer', we are only an afterthought in the greater realm, and it's not right.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 20:01:39 in reply to Comment 71163

I stopped my monthly contributions to the Friends for this very reason. They need to know that they are alienating loyal listeners in a city of half a million. This 'digital presence' is better than nothing, but only just. As you say, it stings, and they need to know it.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 12:58:32 in reply to Comment 71133

The CBC is under attack by Quebecor, and the Haperites are gleefully playing along.

If CBC Toronto is anything to go by it would seem rather unlikley that Bratina will be invited in for scripted interviews so in that sense there will be real questions as opposed to questions the mayor wants to answer.

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By ordinary joe (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 12:16:46

CBC funding is one of the few areas where tax money is actually well spent - especially the radio programming. If you don't listen to it, you are doing yourself a disservice. Give it a try before passing judgement.

If we want to talk about inappropriate spending, why don't we take a look at the province (And city) funding a cloverleaf overpass at clappison's in order to service an enormous power centre (see the front page of the spec today) - which is <10 minutes down the highway in either direction from enormous power centres already built in Ancaster and Burlington.

At least funding the CBC benefits Canadians as a whole. I'd rather subsidize them than subsidize american big box retailers...

THis is just one example of the kind of tax money that easily gets overlooked while people bitch about funding CBC radio because they listen to Q107 and don't give a crap about actual home grown programming.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 13:31:33 in reply to Comment 71140

If CBC were so popular why can't it fund itself by selling advertising (like other stations) and not have to rely on taxpayers?

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By idiot-spotter (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 13:59:46 in reply to Comment 71147

Is it only in Hamilton that someone would so easily miss the point---no, wait--it's deliberate! Yes, that's it.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 13:38:15 in reply to Comment 71147

I would never want the CBC (or TVO for that matter) to sell advertising like the other media outlets, and part of its popularity is due to this feature of a PUBLIC broadcaster.

I don't see how a news source can retain its independence and credibility when actively being paid to promote certain businesses. Money talks, Capitalist, you know that better than anyone, and I would like to retain at least one trusted, less biased news source in this country.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 15:07:59 in reply to Comment 71149

CBC and TVO are not comparable. CBC already sells advertising. Don't you watch hockey night in canada?

Do you really think that because something is funded by government that makes it trusted and less biased?

The CBC is the most biased TV network out there, with the exception of Sun News. Problem is that my tax dollars fund CBC while Sun News receives no government funding and has to rely on advertisers. If Sun News can do it then why can't the CBC?

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By Bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 12:59:28

I worked for CBC at Front Street in a high level job! The CBC does many things well,covers news & sports excellently,has great comedy shows! However,empowering employees is not anything close to what I observed there! CBC is a very Political organization, Managers and Supervisors spend many unpaid extra hours at work and are highly stressed! Conversely,unionization has resulted in far too many employees having very little to do during a shift! Not the fault of employees as I observed they rather do more & add their opinions in how to improve processes,however, Collective Agreement provisions highly restrict that type of activity! My job involved having unfettered access to all Departments from the basement workshop to the upper level studios! For many,not all,their shifts must have felt like 12 hours rather than 8 hours due to inactivity! CBA provisions encouraged ponderous work rules that result in wasted productivity,wasted expense and utter boredom for many! Not the employees or Guild's fault as at some point Management agreed to these restrictions through negotiations! Again, the result of an overly politically charged organization! I welcome CBC entrance to Hamilton,sounds like a small group of operational employees and their distance from Front Street may allow empowerment to this small group. Hopefully that's the case. In conclusion and strictly my opinion,with the Managerial & front line talent that's available within this broadcaster,removal of overly restrictive work rules,actuall empowering employees,reducing the CBA from a War & Peace novel to a simple set of Management & Union obligations similiar to private broadcaster operations, the CBC could be a powerful Network matching most others in North America!

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By jacob (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 19:13:56 in reply to Comment 71143

you raise a huge issue with public unions. Their focus on protection of all union benefits at all costs leads to the protection of deadbeats and leeches. In Denmark there is full employment and near full unionization. But there is no right to your job like a public servant has in Canada. You do a bad job you get fired for cause, with due notice.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 09, 2011 at 18:43:59 in reply to Comment 71162

I could give a very long rant on the failings of the labour movement, but at the end of the day, the harm done to society by making it hard to fire bad workers doesn't really compare to the harm to society when good workers can be fired on a whim.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 13:31:58 in reply to Comment 71143

You lost me at !

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By Top o' the Muffin (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 13:23:13 in reply to Comment 71143

!

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By Clyde_Cope (registered) | Posted November 08, 2011 at 14:47:45

This new model is dependent on one thing - us! Success or failure will depend on how engaged we are in getting our particular message, cultural, business, political or otherwise out to the regional citizenry. I'm expecting considerable success in this venture based on the engagement of concerned citizens on this site.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 08, 2011 at 16:36:29

Out of everyone I know who still listens to old-fashioned radio, more than half, from crusty punks to grey-haired wealthy professionals, leave their dials tuned to the CBC (the rest are almost all divided between Mohawk and Mac). The quality of programming is so far beyond corporate radio that it's hard to believe it's all coming from the same box. I'm not generally a fan of dinosaurish state corporations like this, but I can't deny that they do a very good job (as with much of their reporting and documentaries). The rest of the airwaves are dominated by the likes of Clearchannel and Corus, who may be for-profit but are about as free-market and diverse as the old-time Pravda.

As for the institutional problems at the Corporation itself, nothing Bobby1 mentions surprises me at all. My job takes me into a great variety of workplaces, and believe me - this is the rule, not the exception, especially in the public sector (how some of these people don't grow moss is beyond me). Bureaucracy is built around managing work, not doing it, and the more entrenched it gets the less gets done. This is what I find most inspiring about Lorenzo's (excellent)article - a serious dose of horizontalism is just what the doctor ordered. The CBC has a chance here to become a next-generation media source - more open, fluid and responsive - and that's exactly what's needed to break the stagnation described above.

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By M Hertz (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2011 at 07:22:54 in reply to Comment 71157

agreed... "a chance to become"

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