CIRCOM Senior Management Oslo330signedInnovation can be planned: Senior managers gathered in Oslo for a second Senior Managers workshop

It's not a given, but it is possible for a media company to create the conditions of continuous innovation inside their organization. How can one accomplish such a thing as a manager? How to instil a culture of novelty into a newsroom? How to surprise one's audience by bringing them new ways to tell the stories that they care about? And front and foremost, how to accomplish all of this in a strained financial situation?

Summed up, here were the ingredients of the second senior manager workshop held last Friday at Norwegian broadcaster's headquarters in Oslo. While sharing their experiences, incentives and mistakes, ten senior managers from eight European broadcasters tried to shape the forward looking and modern Public Broadcaster.

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No clue, but a vision

The attendees were given a series of presentations from their host NRK, before splitting up in working groups. The unavoidable themes of Snapchat's footprint and the rapid adoption of streaming video services were discussed; teenagers are moving away from televisions and NRK's Director General made no doubt about his ambition to seduce this age group with quality programming."Ask me what NRK will be like in five years", said Thor Gjermund Eriksen, "I don't have a clue!"

Nonetheless, Eriksen stressed the importance of innovation and shared the successful story of NRK's critically acclaimed TV series Skam (Shame). The fictional show — currently in its third season — is aimed at teenage girls and boys. It exposes their concerns in a new and riveting way on TV, web and social media, going as far as having created and maintaining fictional social media profiles for the characters of the series.

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Another idea that remained in everyone's mind was that managers ought to give their staff a "licence to fail" in order for the company to reach greatness. The opinion came out of one of three brainstorming groups composed by the senior managers. Trial and error can also apply to broadcast professionals, they found, because technology, the market — and society — are moving forward like never before. "The discussions held during the day reinforced the idea that management must trust their staff and make them feel they are trusted so that innovation can occur" said Jean-Marc Dubois, Secretary General of the France 3 network and former CIRCOM President.

The workshop was a clear reminder to top managers that whatever country they operate in, they face a very similar set of problems. The attendees all took part in brainstorming sessions where they would showcase their actions, innovative ideas, and lessons learned from failures. "We could clearly see the value in this", said Jyri Kataja-Rahko, Head of Regions at Finnish broadcaster YLE. "I very much enjoyed the group sessions were we could learn about the ideas of others and share our best ideas", he added.

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This second workshop, held after the success of the Amsterdam "Strategies for Regional Broadasters" gathered most of the same group of senior managers coming from various public service broadcasters. "This shows that they clearly acknowledge the value of such workshops, which means that we should schedule more of these in the future!", said the President of CIRCOM Regional and Head of NRK Nordland Tone Kunst.