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A Brisk Morning & A Morning Risk

September 19, 2014

If you told me when I was a graduate student in poetry that, 20 years later, I'd be addressing someone called a "Chief Risk Officer" and his executive leadership team at one of the largest financial services institutions in the world, sharing strategies and insights on innovation and risk management... I would have told you to please not interrupt me when I'm playing NHL Hockey on my Sega Genesis. Quite a risk, this executive took in handing me the mic for an hour this morning! So there I was, bright and early, kicking off my talk by offering common ground between the risks a big bank takes and the risks media companies (like the one I work for) take. I led with a clip from Comedy Central's incredible series "Nathan For You," now wrapping up its second season. If you haven't seen the show, it's so worth checking out here. In the meantime, here's a segment from the show's already famous "Dumb Starbucks" episode, in which Nathan attempts to mitigate risk by implicating a befuddled "attorney" in his scheme.
Comedy Central's programming, lauded recently in this great piece on Vox, is filled with examples of a network taking risks -- and winning because of it.  From Key & Peele to Drunk History, not to mention the daily fearlessness of Jon Stewart, "the channel always has something worth watching," says Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff.
Yes.  And that's because there's nearly always something it bets on, something at stake, something not exactly safe.Like putting a poetry major in front of a bank's risk management team.

Us

Congratulations To Viacom’s MBY Graduates

September 18, 2014

I had a super fun time today celebrating the 151 graduates of Viacom's "Maximizing Brand You," a peer counseling and career development program that helps assistant- to director-level employees define and strengthen their own personal brand.  The year-long program has participants define their career goals and gives them the mentoring and skills they need to achieve them.

Congratulations to all of this year's graduates.  Your selfie sticks are on their way.  In the meantime, here's the shot I just took with you!


DCIM101GOPRO

News

Research You Can Walk Through

August 19, 2014

For years, Scratch has studied the compression of time and space between, say, a good idea and a better one; a thriving company and a dead one; instant success and precipitous failure and then (often in a reality show?) premeditated redemption. "Time's moving faster than ever," right?  Sure it is, or at least if feels like that, depending on how much (food, content, stimulus, etc) you consume in a given period of time.  But those who stop right there and land on "we've just got to move faster to keep up" -- are missing the point and will face extinction. The winners of the 21st century, so far, are those who obsessively pursue a deeper understanding of the ways in which Millennial consumers are calibrating their speed at every turn.  Slow food and binge viewing; nap pods and Adderall; apps to consume more in less time and apps to fight distraction, the quantified self and the self #unplugged. wpid-20140702_164900.jpg Yesterday, Viacom's blog featured a post by Tiffany Knighten about CADENCE, a project Scratch kicked off last month to present new perspectives on the speed of life in 2014: "Open to teams across the company, as well as select partners and clients, the month-long installation – part research presentation, part museum exhibit, part art gallery – brought Viacom’s consumer insights to life in a new way. Cadence was designed to help visitors experience the unique approaches programmers, content creators, marketers and brands are taking to calibrate their moves in a culture that’s compressing time and space in more and more complicated ways." I've been excited about this for a while, for a few reasons:
  •  It's impossible to perform at a high level in the media business without a nuanced understanding of the velocities of culture.  That sounds like a media executive taking himself too seriously on his own blog, but it's true.  Most of us get it wrong, most of the time -- we're either ahead of the game, patting ourselves on the back prematurely, or we're behind it, fighting irrelevance.  Stepping back to measure the distance gives us all a chance to catch our breath and look at things with colleagues and partners in a new way.  Then apply what we learn to our daily work, whether we're writers, programmers, developers, marketers, designers, strategists, planners or anything in between.
 
  • Speaking of a new way... it's exciting to see research served up to make participants feel the information as they move through it.  Anne Hubert, Senior Vice President at Scratch, describes CADENCE as "truly immersive, a chance to experience life at Millennial speed, and to apply that understanding to everything we do.”  Watching participants take it all in, explore the subject and raise new questions, I could see the need and the potential for bringing more subjects to light in new and exciting ways.
 
  • An enterprising team of people from Scratch made this happen...from scratch.  It's what can happen when provocative material doesn't want to live locked up in a PowerPoint deck in a conference room.  The content itself inspired innovation in the way it could be manifest.
  You can read more about the CADENCE project on the Viacom blog.  And for more information, email scratch@viacom.com.    

News

The “Millennial Disruption Index” On Bloomberg TV’s Market Makers This Morning

June 13, 2014

I was a guest this morning on Bloomberg TV's show "Market Makers," hosted by Stephanie Ruhle and Erik Shatzker, where I talked about THE MILLENNIAL DISRUPTION INDEX.  It continues the discussion Scratch and Viacom started about the ongoing transformation we see in financial services at the hands of the largest generation in American history, which was first covered in Fast Company and Time Magazine.

News

Sometimes I Don’t Aim

June 7, 2014

"Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." - Jane Hischfield     Ever write a sentence without knowing how it will end?  Without even knowing what you "mean" to say? I find so often when I'm writing I'm cuffed by pretense and obligation.  I know where everything's got to end up, what it must resolve to; it's just a matter of getting from A to B to Z. So lately I've been trying to break free, letting a sentence go take me where it wants.  When it wants, how it wants.  When that happens, something opens, something comes alive. That's what Hemingway, Poe, Falkner and Mary Shelley did. Hemingway's words became wild journeys -- not just for readers but for the writer himself, who's caught a tiger by the tail. It's what makes writing an act of adventure. Here's the start of the longest sentence Hemingway ever wrote, from Green Hills of Africa: “That something I cannot yet define completely but the feeling comes when you write well and truly...." And here's how it ends, not with a stop but a stream: "...float with no significance against one single, lasting thing—the stream.” Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gelhorn, said: "He was a genius, that uneasy word, not so much in what he wrote as in how he wrote; he liberated our written language." Why write without aim?  I like how poet Jane Hirshfield argues it enables "you flush from the deep thickets of the self some thought, feeling, comprehension, question, music, you didn’t know was in you, or in the world.  You write to invite that, to make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable." "We live so often in a damped-down condition," as Hirschfield puts it.  "The sequesters are social—convention, politeness—and personal: timidity, self-fear or self-blindness, fatigue." One exercise I've been messing with to help me bust out of my own head -- or at least make fun of my own patterns -- is autofill on my smartphone.  Every time I type an email, my phone guesses at the next word I'll use, based on the time I've had with this phone.  Here, I'll write a sentence without  typing a single word... Before I even touch the screen, my phone offers me 3 words with which to start the sentence:  "Emily" (my assistant), "I" (that's me), and "The."  I choose "The" and am greeted by 3 next words to choose from: "truth," "research," and "wall."  Fun words!  This is like a choose-your-own-adventure game. Here's the full sentence result of me choosing from the words I'm offered, without thinking much about it as I go: "The truth is that you can explain the situation to him, but only if you aren't going to be honest with your own face." "Honest with your own face?"  Wtf is that?  I don't know, but I want to know, so I will keep on writing to find out.    

News

150 People Knitting Boobs

May 16, 2014

It was 9am on a beautiful Friday morning in Brooklyn, four years ago, the first ever Viacommunity Day, a day of service for all employees of our company.  I was walking up to my wife's art studio with several bags of bagels.  She was expecting about 50 people that morning. Neither of us expected our CEO to be among them. But sure enough, there he was.  The first one there.  Boom. And, just like she's done wth hundreds of my colleagues since, there's Jordana, teaching him how to knit. What was she teaching him to knit?  A prosthetic breast for a cancer survivor in need. He was focused, he picked it up quickly, and with that, "Knit-A-Boob" went from a vision in Jordana's mind to a real event, something that has already made a real difference in the lives of so many, and something anybody can do. Today was Jordana's fourth annual "Knit-A-Boob" -- now a full day event, sponsored by Viacom, Oak Knit Studio, Textile Arts Center (where Jordana also serves as board president) and Breastcancer.org. Hundreds of new and experienced knitters joined together to learn about breast cancer prevention, while knitting hand-dyed cashmere prosthetics for women who have lost their breasts. "Knit-A-Boob" has inspired so many others to act.  Last year, for example, Camila Alves and CAA hosted a Knit-A-Boob event in Los Angeles. Jordana and breastcancer.org were there, teaching 75 Latina highschoolers to knit and to keep themselves healthy. Dozens of similar events have popped up across the country. It's a special thing -- for Viacom, for Jordana and for me, her husband, watching her gather a community of knitters to help teach and encourage our volunteers to produce these beautiful, personal objects.  Here's how it works: How a Boob is Made from Jordana Munk Martin on Vimeo. And here's Jordana, welcoming all the volunteers to the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, this morning: Today, 150 people completed 25 new pairs of knitted boobs. Over the next month, Jordana and her team of knitters will complete any unfinished sets and add them to the pile. Wanna learn how to make these puppies or host an event like this of your own?  Send an email to jordana@textileartscenter.com.