Presenting Lean Media at the HEAA Innovation Symposium

By | June 13, 2016

HEAA Innovation SymposiumLast month I gave my first public presentation of Lean Media at a forum at Harvard hosted by the Harvard Extension Alumni Association, of which I am a member. The presentation at Harvard Hall on May 22 was part of an innovation symposium.

It was short, but very effective — 10 minutes to present and 10 minutes to answer questions. It was the first time I had ever presented Lean Media concepts to a live audience, and fortunately for me, the audience included people actively engaged in the creation of media, including books, film, and websites. I could see that it resonated with some of them, and the questions were great. They included:

Q: Was it possible to apply a Lean Media formula, perhaps something that was format specific?

A: I said that while it was possible to create a more format-specific framework, it was hard to create a formula as media differs so much from project to project. As one example, I pointed out that my own indie publishing company operated quite differently than the publishing employer of another member of the audience who had earlier given a presentation about media-rich digital books.

I also said that taking an all-quantitative route was dangerous for media creators. The poster child of this is Zynga, which took a famously data-driven approach to video game development and ended up with a bunch of uninspiring, me-too titles.

Q: How does Lean Media affect the cost structure of creating media?

A: This was a great question. In my response, I noted that savings not only come from quicker iterative cycles and launching sooner. Lean Media projects are also cheaper because fewer people are involved. Why have 30 people on the team when 10 will get the job done? Finally, I noted that if a Lean Media project is not resonating with audiences, no matter how many iterations or pivots are tried, just kill it and move on to the next project. This is different than the ideal tech startup, which is supposed to pivot until it finds its market.

Perhaps the most interesting questions came from people working in fields that I had not really considered to be part of the Lean Media universe: marketing and online education. But upon hearing their observations, I realized that yes, a marketing group or online education provider does in fact create informational media with specific audiences in mind. And, as with film or videogames or a news website, I realized intangibles do matter. I was reminded of the times I have watched a Khan Academy video and then the same topic covered in a video by a mathematics instructor hired by one of the textbook manufacturers. It was no contest. Sal Khan has charisma and empathy, and that made a huge difference in terms of effectiveness.

As for marketing, the creative teams involved in building an advertising campaign are trying to evoke an emotional response and deliver a message or impression associated with the brand or product. A creator working on a TV ad or content marketing campaign can conceivably use Lean Media. They may not have the flexibility to abandon a project, however.

If I can get a copy of the video, I will try to share it on this post. Here are some tweets from the event:


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