Friday, November 7, 2008

Transforming a cage into a net

I heard Lauren Zalaznick, the President of Bravo, speak several weeks ago and she drew a metaphor that I have been thinking about ever since. She is a marketing guru and someone who has lived through and thrived in hard times. 

NBC Universal (and that company includes Bravo) belongs to the giant conglomerate that is GE. And as the result of being part of a very large company within a very large empire, there are lots of rules and regulations, a.k.a. guardrails. But rather that seeing those rules as a cage, she encourages her team to see those as a net, a safety net. We have to find ways to use them to our advantage rather than feeling suffocated and down-trodden by them. This is not easy, particularly for people like me - self-professed critics of authority who enjoy small non-conventional environments. Lauren Zalaznick has been incredibly successful at turning around Bravo, despite the many rules set by NBC and compounded by entirely different rules set by GE. Clearly, she's found a way to make it work, and I'd like to do the same. 

Here are ways that I've been using rules to my advantage, to build a net from what was formerly a cage:

It's a matter of perspective - simply imaging the rules as a safety net rather than a cage has helped me to appreciate and respect them. 

It's all good learning - I have recognized that rules and regulations are put in place for a reason, so before I get frustrated with a rule, I consider in what situations it can be helpful and necessary. And this has led me to be more grateful for, rather than resentful of, those rules. 

Transformation is led from the inside out: if you want to change the rules, you have to first learn them and use them. I am supremely interested in constant improvement, transformation, and change. And if I am ever going to make an impact on a large company, I will have to do it from the inside. This means learning the rules, and then figuring out how to improve and mold them to function exceptionally well. 

I'm not saying this new way of thinking is easy. I still get frustrated, sometimes daily, by the rules. But when I do get frustrated, following these three lines of thought helps me work through the frustration, and turns that frustration into a tool rather than a roadblock. 

No comments: