Managing the Madness

Three Insights from Yale SOM Faculty to Help You Navigate an Industry in Flux

At a terrifying pace, the media industry is changing. How can you adapt? Here are three expert tips from three professors at the Yale School of Management.

What worries you? Is it the unnavigable complexity of a digital strategy? Is it finding revenue streams across a fractured landscape? Maybe it’s creating organizational dynamics that support innovation, or the challenge of branding when users control so much of what you produce.

The list goes on. Publishing content—whatever final form that content takes—and making money from its publication is an increasingly troubled proposition. To help you think about new approaches to the managerial challenges of publishing, here are three insights from professors at the Yale School of Management. Taken together, these videos (and summary text) provide a short respite and partial antidote to the chaos.

Spur change from within

As publishing changes, so must your business. But employees often resist or resent change. One solution: get them involved in defining their jobs to incorporate personal motives and strengths. This “job crafting,” as Yale SOM Professor Amy Wrzesniewski calls it, can inspire support for organizational change.

Two strategies are particularly useful. First, communicate your overarching strategic goals in a way that is comfortably non-prescriptive, that invites employees to participate in making the change succeed. Some years back, in a now-famous example, the CEO of Xerox encouraged the company to improve returns on assets. From this open call, a middle manager and his team buried deep within the company revolutionized supply chains. Giving employees leeway in how they approach a strategic objective can nicely boost internal commitment.

Second, bring employees together to discuss how their work is shifting, to air both grievances and exciting new prospects. These “swap meets” also allow them to trade tasks. What one employee hates another may love. Uncovering connections like this provides a way for employees to jointly navigate new responsibilities without suffering diminished meaning in their work.

Watch Professor Amy Wrzesniewski talk about job crafting and its benefits.

See the invisible

Every decision we make is influenced by an invisible set of reference points. Taken together, these points influence our choices and in turn, our audience. Unfortunately, our dependence on these frames is concealed from sight. They operate subconsciously, like a movie crew behind the camera, telling us what to focus on, how to feel, and how to act.

But can we step outside of our normal cognitive processes to observe these frames, to more objectively consider their influence on how we work, and how our work impacts our employees and audiences?

Yale SOM Professor Nathan Novemsky has spent decades understanding both how this psychology works and how to move beyond its grip. He routinely teaches about structures and strategies to recognize blind spots in our thinking and maximize our chances of making the best long-term decisions. For instance, whether we think of outcomes in terms of gains or losses—a new subscription versus declining readership—dramatically influences our willingness to take risks.

Watch here as Novemsky discusses how thinking about gains makes us risk averse, while considering losses makes gamblers of us all.

Make teamwork work

Team lead. Project director. Point person. Within teams, hierarchy is sometimes explicitly set; sometimes it emerges organically. Either way, managers often sit outside of the teams they oversee and remain unaware of how hierarchy introduces status dynamics. These dynamics, in turn, influence team interactions and effectiveness.

In a recent analysis of hospital care, Yale SOM Professor Marissa King found that establishing a nurse care coordinator within medical teams—that is, introducing a new hierarchical post—made teams more disengaged and uncommunicative. To avoid outcomes like this, managers ought to openly acknowledge hierarchy, which remains a taboo subject in most organizations. They ought to create an environment in which employees feel safe to talk about concerns they have with a team’s status dynamics. This step can spark opportunities to address problems before harmful symptoms arise, and before teams spiral into ineffectiveness.

Watch Professor King, an expert in effective leadership, discuss how small shifts in team dynamics can significantly alter team outcomes—and what you, as a leader, need to do about it.

Given the complexity of today’s publishing environment, there is no single managerial trick to sustain your organization. But combining a range of novel leadership strategies with real-world case-studies of successful adaptation could nicely fortify your business.

The Yale Publishing Course offers a week-long curriculum that presents the kind of research and management techniques presented above alongside practical wisdom from industry experts. Click here for more information on the courses offered: Leadership Strategies in Magazine and Digital Media and Leadership Strategies in Book Publishing. Or contact Lisa Kammert for more information.