More than two years ago, the Tribune Company hired Lee Abrams as its Chief Innovation Officer. We were keeping an eye on Abrams and his efforts to shake up one of the bastions of “old guard” media. Today, Abrams resigned in disgrace after more than a week of some of the worst “bad press” a media company could get. This story summarizes it all.
We consider Abrams a Tanner Friedman inspiration of sorts. His “AFDI” mantra (Actually Bleeping Doing It) is something that guides and motivates us every day (and is also posted on the wall of my office). To us, it’s about accountability, thinking differently and a commitment to doing what you say you’re going to do rather than just having the same meetings over and over again.
Apparently, the role of corporate executive didn’t fit Abrams well. And if you read all of the coverage, you see a company in need of a “fall guy” to stop the PR bleeding (I write this because the unprofessional tone in the company was likely set at the top and Abrams, while falling in line with that culture, was not at the top). But, as a creative and critical thinker, it’s tough to argue with his substance, even if you don’t like his style. An Abrams interview on this blog made the rounds in 2008. Read it again. Do you think it still resonates today?
Abrams’ tenure with Tribune may have ended in disaster, but traditional media companies should not be turned off to the notion of a Chief Innovation Officer. In fact, as newspapers struggle with consumer demand for digital content, television news fights for relevance and radio in need of a revenue boost, every traditional media company should at the very least hire and empower a Chief Innovation Officer