Public Radio and the return to a flat world

Rob is bursting with energy at the Public Radio conference in Boston this week. It is absolutly killing to be missing it. I will be watching as many sessions as they can stream.

When Rob first started to work for Public Radio through NPR, I got to come in and do some early work with him, what we saw was an incredible fragmented system that was in need of some big emotional and structural repair.

The biggest problem is that you have to start with the emotional healing before you can start to “fix” other problems in the system. It’s been a long, hard, year of emotions for many people in Public Radio, and I think we are starting to see some of the healing now.

Last May we brought as many Public Radio people together as we possibly could in Washington, DC and opened the space for everyone to talk. Like brother who have not spoken in years, there was much to reminice about, but much thinking to do about the future as well.

Get on with it, Now!

Talking about something, and not executing, seems to be a cultural quirk of the Public Radio world (as aggregate). There are many stations out there doing things, and doing them well, but put two stations together, let alone 200, and little gets done.

This is the key problem because of a lack of leadership.

Great leaders seem to be, in general terms, great doers. No fuss, just get it done. Rome was not built in a day, but it did get built.

Who can lead Public Radio?

How to get on with it personally?

Only you have the answer, here is what I try when in a rut.

  • * First of all, drop what you are doing. Chances are pretty good that most of what you are doing in your day-to-day job is not at all as helpful, or as critical, as you probably think it is.
  • * Go for a long drive, or take a walk, and imagine, even if just for 10 minutes, what it would be like to change America again. (no small thing, but it is the plan — I think about Canada, sometimes the world!)
  • * Lose the agenda and start to listen to people for real. It’s hard work, and I do a terrible job much of the time myself, but it is something we must learn to do. We have to unlearn the art of the selfish conversation.

What does the System need to do?

  • * No more boards, councils or commitees. Groups of people are now action based.
  • * Do not reward ideas, reward solutions, and demand solutions, no ideas. Solutions and action can have all, or more, of the creativity of a good idea and the inception is just as artistic.
  • * Flatten the world: NPR must not go to stations and other networks with plans, or even intentions. Organizations like CPB, NPR and APR among others must go to the edges of public radio to seek wisdom, advice and direction.
  • * Stop Planning.
  • * Stop looking for answers.