Creativity and Conviction: My Takeaways from the HBS Entertainment & Media Summit

Saturday marked the Entertainment & Media Summit at HBS. Students, faculty and industry professionals gathered for a day of exchanging ideas and dreaming about the future of media. Industry guests shared their experiences and insights while students asked questions and challenged the industry practices. It was an enlightened day of vision-casting for the future of media.

Among the industry guests were Arnon Milchan, Chairman & Founder of New Regency, Roger Faxon, Former CEO of EMI and Jack Sullivan, CEO of Broadway video, along with a bevy of other guests who served as panelists for a myriad of topics. These media giants expressed lessons learned as well as their convictions, vulnerabilities and business know-how.

This year’s conference theme, “Media’s Next Frontier” whittled the day’s focus down to the changing face of media as a result of technology’s evolution. After spending the day in and out of these conversations, I experienced several key takeaways for anyone interested in getting in the entertainment industry:

1) Digital is Integral.

Digital must become a central part of your business. Everything from storytelling to distribution revolves around it. Technology has vastly enriched the stories told on the screen and in the studio. The gaming world has integrated these stories with the user experience. Now digital has changed the way the audience is captured – forever. From the rousing success of Toy Story’s animation to the rising sensation of social TV during an episode of “The Bachelor”, audiences are enjoying the story in a fresh way that includes them in the experience.

2) Balance the Creativity with the Committee.

Trust your instincts. This was a resounding message amongst all of Saturday’s panels and keynotes. Harnessing the creativity within your gut and trusting your own imagination to follow through takes time to learn. It also takes the encouragement from a strong team. Often times, this need for extra encouragement can result in relying on your committee’s stamp of approval on any (and every) project. However, if there are thirty people that must give their approval for any project, the creativity can get lost in translation. The project quickly becomes a product and loses the inventive twist that set it a part in the first place. Know when to consult the committee and know when to trust the creative gift you’ve got.

3) Experience + Conviction = Good Decisions

Nothing can replace experience. Lessons are learned in the years spent behind the scenes, which makes the years in front of the camera all the sweeter. But when that experience is coupled with an unshaken conviction, you become unstoppable. The screenplay, marketing campaign or business venture has all the makings of success because of its foundation: You. Your encounters, your character, your ethics, your ingenuity. Good decisions are bred out of a marriage of your experience and your conviction.

These are just a few of the takeaways that I’ve been mulling over during the past few days. The conference certainly got the wheels turning as I assessed all my qualifications and lack thereof. One thing was made certain: With no risk there will be no reward. And in the changing face of media and entertainment, the risk is great, but the reward seems like it could be quite a lot of fun.