Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission"

Note: "Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission" comes from the ASBPE Boston blog.

Those words come from Neal Vitale, CEO of 1105 Media, as quoted in Folio:'s report on today's CEO roundtable at American Business Media's Top Management Meeting. According to the report by Folio:'s Matt Kinsman, "the CEO panel emphasized that the transformation facing publishers isn't just about adapting online but breaking established, outdated molds throughout their companies."

Vitale's comment had to do with moving corporate focus away from the bottom line. The full quote from Vitale, as it appears in Kinsman's article, was this: "We want there to be a sense that it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. If people have a good idea, don't wait around for approval from the budget department."

Other highlights from Kinsman's report:
  • Panelists stressed the importance of investing in the company and fostering entrepreneurship, even in the face of the lean times we've seen recently.

  • Vance Publishing president and COO Peggy Walker noted that her company has had to rethink its decentralized organizational structure; the energy and resources expended on multiple small projects could have been used on larger projects that might have benefitted the company more. That advice seems to contradict the point immediately above, and Vitale's comments, which seem to call for a less-centralized decision-making structure. Perhaps the point is to be flexible and rely on common sense, not fads or trends, in deciding when and how to remake your business.

  • With 18 different publications, Farm Progress Companies suffered from overlap among titles. Kinsman quotes company president Jeff Lapin as saying. "Advertisers recognized us as a strong brand, but said we just did the same content across 18 magazine[s]." It must have hurt to hear that. Farm Progress deserves credit for taking the advice to heart and overhauling its offerings.

  • Also of note: As part of its revamp, Farm Progress entered the consumer market with a new magazine called Rural Life.

  • Interestingly, Vance Publishing brought on board staff members it referred to as "change agents," including a new human resources staffer.

  • Also in the human resources arena, McGraw-Hill's Harry Sachinis advocated what he called "overhiring," noting that the company hired a former astronaut and aviation-industry executive to head up its AviationWeek group.
It's nice to hear all this emphasis on investing in products and personnel coming from corporate leaders, but it's hard not to think that for many companies -- especially given the recent economic situation in the industry -- such investments are just not an option. And fostering an entrepreunerial culture is something much easier said than done. Still, there are companies that seem to manage one or both feats fairly successfully (IDG comes to mind). The hard part is figuring out how they do it, and how to replicate that success. At one of last year's [Boston] chapter meetings, it became evident that innovation often happens under the radar.

Related link:
Other B2B media news today from Folio:
Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while ASBPE-KC blog administrator Spring Suptic is away.

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