This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site in my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 10, 2006, after the two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news business, Breaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.
Newspaper people learn early to trust our “gut feeling.”
Your gut often proves right in covering a news story or operating a newspaper in the traditional market. Your gut, of course, is just the voice of experience.
When it comes to innovation, your gut will steer you wrong, we learned Thursday on the final day of the Newspaper Next Symposium.
A look around the room showed a lot of gray hair, a lot of veteran executives hearing that their experience was steering them wrong.
More than 90 percent of successful innovative ventures, Anthony explained, “started our following the wrong strategy.” The key to success isn’t having the right answer in your gut, but testing solutions, adjusting and changing course as you learn the right answer.
“Try to invest a little, learn a lot,” he advised.
Innovators who invest heavily in the wrong path have no more money to invest once they learn their mistake. So what newspapers need now is to invest lots of money in lots of mistakes, to learn from those mistakes, adjust our course and find the innovative solutions that will move us forward.
We also need some people without all that experience. We’ve talked for a long time about the need for diversity in the newspaper business. It’s a valid need, as the prevalence of aging white men in the room underscored. But diversity goes deeper than the demographic categories we usually think of. We need people with experiences outside our business.
“There is a need in this industry to bring outside thinking and expertise into the industry,” said Clark Gilbert, a director of Innosight and a Harvard Business School professor with a decade of experience consulting for the newspaper business. He described us as “one of the most insular industries” he has studied. (Update: Gilbert is now president and CEO of Deseret News Publishing and Deseret Digital Media in Salt Lake City.)
Newspaper Next, API’s project to develop a new business model for our industry, moves now into its next phase, the Disruptive Innovation Advisory Program. The Newspaper Next team will seek five innovative ideas that go against the gut feeling.
The selected newspapers will receive consulting from the Newspaper Next team at no cost beyond expenses. Newspaper Next will tell the stories of these projects to the broader industry. Those stories will become part of the final report of Newspaper Next, due later this year.
We educated our gut over a lot of years through a variety of experiences. Are we ready to continue learning and lead our industry through an era of innovation where we learn new lessons?