Shapes & Ideas
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Shapes & Ideas

5 Lenses for Media Transformation.

A man sits in first car of a train and films the landscape in front of him. As he zooms in the train seems to slow down — but not really — it is only an optical illusion. In reality his mind plays a trick. This curious experiment by a Japanese professor shows how our field of view has a massive effect on how we perceive speed. Zooming in limits our view and compresses visual depth. Somehow it stretches our sense of motion and time. Wider lenses expand our view. In relation to new elements that appear we get a higher sense of speed.

Now imagine that train is a media company rushing through the rapidly changing media landscape. What are we really looking at here? Are we moving fast or slow? And what is the right perspective to even know this: ultra-wide or zoomed in?

The truth is that there is no single answer to these questions. Media companies are complex environments with many different levels that move at different speeds. What seems fast at one level can be excruciatingly slow at another.

For example: A digital newsroom needs to be able to adapt to real-time data, switching and changing what they offer in an instant. That insight can come in an instant, take weeks to evolve into a clear proposal for change, even longer for a viable business idea, months for a technical implementation and years to actually mature to an adapated organisational culture.

This simple case shows how not all changes happen at the same speed or within the same layers in media companies. At the surface of organisations things tend to happen quicker and require less effort. Interventions at a deeper level tend to require more time and effort but ultimately have more impact.

Just like the professor with his camera we need different lenses and different models to look at the transformation of our organisations in order to tackle:

  • Challenges that happen at different speed at different levels of the organisation.
  • Challenges that are not happening in isolation but are interconnected and influence each other.
  • Challenges that happen inside and outside the field of control.
  • Challenges that are in a permanent flux and keep evolving.

In the next weeks I want to explore some of the different ways we could look at a media organisation. Mental models that are easy to grasp and more importantly can be easily applied. And while this might sound like the abstract stuff for strategy books I will make sure to couple these models with very tangible examples.


Understanding organisations at different levels becomes easier if we learn how to move through scales. From the micro to the massive, from the individual to the whole. Scale adds perspective as we zoom out and detail as we zoom in. But it also helps to shrink the massive down to a size we can handle or scale solutions up so they have more effect and impact. A matter of small decissions leading to big change.


Media organization have long been governed by flows in one direction. We were after all ‘broadcasters’. That paradigm doesn’t hold anymore. Taking the viewpoint of our users, partners or suppliers as they move upstream in the value chain will allow us to gain a new understanding. It will give us new perspectives of the world around us as well as a clearer understanding of the journeys we need to create to engage our audiences.


This must be the most quoted transformational model, yet organisations still struggle with functional silo’s and isolated activities. Few media organisations fully realize how their backstage processes are connected to the overall experience of audiences frontstage. It’s vital to get a better understanding of how internal interactions and dynamics determine relations with users in order to truly deliver value as a whole.


Feedback loops keep media organisations grounded. They are a way to track if we are on the right course. But feedback loops go beyond the obvious metrics and data we might get on online dashboards. Giving employees time to think, for instance, is a less obvious but important ‘feedback loop’ in organisations, because it ensure that new perspectives and ideas can grow and are voiced. The speed, accuracy and power of these loops are all factors that come into play.


Some of the above mentioned elements are part of the wider practice of System Thinking. Starting from the belief that systems are made up of interconnected parts that when put together create a complex whole. With this approach the idea of simple solutions goes out of the window but it does open up a new spectrum of leverages or interventions that can help you to move the dynamics of the system in a certain direction resulting in a durable impact and increased resilience and sustainability of our organisations.

In my next post, I will tackle the element of scale. Starting from the edge of the universe to the tangible level and how you can use and apply it in your organisation.



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