​How News Corp reinvented its innovation culture

The media giant has gone through an innovation revolution in order to survive the severely disrupted industry

From the humble newspaper to the latest in digital media channels, News Corp’s innovation journey has moved leaps and bounds in order to survive in today’s increasingly disrupted multimedia landscape.

Speaking at the Digital Disruption X 2016 event in Sydney, News Corp’s head of innovation, Mark Drasutis, revealed how the business has moved away from its legacy model to embracing a new culture of innovation and collaboration.

“Disruption is an event that results in a displacement of discontinuity,” Drasutis told attendees. “By contrast, innovation is the introduction of new things and methods.”

According to Drasutis, a major disruptor of the media environment has been mobile, which has now taken over our content, consumption and everyday lives.

“On top of this, mass media has moved to masses of media,” he said. “Time is of the essence with digitally savvy audience’s attention spans diminishing considerably.”

Meanwhile curated content has huge value and while people still trust news and media brands, they do so on their terms on their preferred platform, he said.

“Trust and curation are the two threads we have taken out of the traditional paper and into the digital world,” he said. “So understanding disruption means people still will have the same core needs and the same outcomes, but they demand it in different ways in different forms that have been displaced.”

The disruption drivers

Drasutis stressed driving disruption isn’t necessarily about developing something entirely new, but it could also mean assembling already existing elements into a disruptive whole.

“A great example of this is Uber, because the need to go from A to B is still the same, but Uber just assembled this in a different way and disrupted the whole industry to make it really easy for customers,” he said.

Disruption is also not limited to technology, as it can also include developing new ways to deliver value through a new business model.

“Look at online glasses manufacturer Warby Parker, where you send a picture of your face and they send you a series of glasses that will fit your face,” he said. “You then choose the frame you want and they send it to you. Now they've disrupted the traditional optometrist market not by using new technology as such, but they’ve just made it easier and more convenient for customers to get new glasses.”

Dasrutis also stressed customers don’t care about the technology itself, they simply care about the better and more convenient system that will enhance their experience.

“Customers don’t care about inventions or innovations,” he said. “What most customers care about is what job a product or service enables them to do that they couldn’t do, or well enough beforehand. So it’s important to focus on the customer need, how to improve their lives and the jobs needed to be done.”

Innovation teams and new complex adaptive systems

At News Corp, people and processes are being recombined in different and new ways for growth. Drasutis claimed he has also encouraged the concept of ‘flocking,’ which means ensuring teams are constantly adaptive to change and can steer in the same direction to counter disruption.

“It’s about flocking and steering smaller teams with a tighter focus,” he said. “That have a tighter focus on tangible and measurable outcomes, which means you can then move and scale quickly.”

In order to remain innovative in the fiercely competitive media landscape, Drasutis claimed News Corp’s innovation team also needs to be consumer obsessed.

“Your teams need to be designed around explicit and measurable customer facing outcomes, over channels or disciplines that deliver value and impact,” he said. “Additionally, you need to have lean and autonomous teams populated with only the members essential to the work that are diverse, capable of operating without interference or interdependence and are failsafe.”

Internal structures need to be ‘porous’ and not operate in siloes, he added, which means they are permeable to additional resources, communities, partners and other teams.

“In order to be innovative, teams also need to be self-organising, and have the capacity to manage resources in order to assemble, adapt or disband,” he explained. “At the same time, you need to create strategies, structures and systems which are ‘plastic’ and can response to change.”

Embracing the evolutionary edge

In order to embrace the evolutionary edge, Drasutis claimed there needs to be quiet change from the top down. At News Corp, Drasutis claimed his team implemented a plan called Accelerate, which involved a set of principles and methodologies of startup businesses but were tailored for big businesses. This way, employees were able to think and shape the company in the same way as startup disruptors.

“The reason why I call it quiet change is not because it’s quiet, but because people aren’t realising it has happened,” he said. “It actually becomes part of their daily lives and eventually, every person within the company begins to think in lines with innovation and a lean startup.

"So don’t tell people what to think, show them the path and take them on the journey."

Tips to kick-starting your culture of innovation:

  • Assess your company’s values and beliefs as understood by its employees
  • Communicate the need for new values and move employees to a new way of thinking. This takes time.
  • Plan a concerted effort to create a new set of stories, heroes and rituals around your core business values
  • Align company incentive programs such as compensation, plans, bonuses and promotion to the new values
  • Create a culture which is happy to take risk, fail fast and learn from every action and reaction

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