Reed Hastings – Our Innovation Hero

by Janice Maffei

Reed Hastings - Our Innovation HeroEnough already with the negative press on Netflix. They did what any firm hoping to be innovative does: they tried something out, learned from failure, and made adjustments. Instead of the public drubbing of Mr. Hastings, we are suggesting a virtual ticker tape parade.

Five reasons:

  1. He had the courage to try out a new model. Let’s remember the initial disruptive innovation of movies by mail grew Netflix to over 25 million subscribers in nine years. It changed our expectations and habits about access to movies at home and on the road.
  2. He quickly acknowledged the plan wasn’t working. WOW! Think of that, someone who has the courage to admit a mistake and move on.
  3. He’s not changing his story. No whitewashing, no blaming. He said, “I messed up.” We all mess up. We don’t always take direct responsibility for it, especially publically. Thank you, Reed Hastings.
  4. He is willing to reverse himself. Ideal? No. Real life? Yes. And though he is still not doing everything the way people think he should, he is open to listening and learning, even though he sits at the top of the org chart.
  5. He’s got a long-term view. “It’s a mistake to measure everything by what happened last week or last month,” he explained in an interview with the New York Times. We couldn’t agree more.

We know the next chapters in the story are not fully written as Netflix stumbles through new waves of disruptive change. Customers and investors vote with their pocketbooks, and Netflix has lost a lot of them. But building a new, successful business model is hard, and sustaining is even harder. Jumping on the “bashing bandwagon” after the fact is pretty easy.

Let’s raise a glass to Reed Hastings, a change agent in the public arena, to thank him for his powerful illustration of what innovators do: they make bold choices, tune in to market response, take personal responsibility for decisions, and then calibrate quickly and repeatedly. He had the courage to take a risk and face up to a heated backlash In the process, and he learned something about his brand – that subscribers are so emotionally attached to Netflix, they weren’t ready to let it morph into something else.

Here, Here, Reed Hastings.

Editor’s Note: Here are four recent articles about Netflix from other Innovation Excellence authors:

imagecredit: standford.edu

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Janice MaffeiJoanne SpignerJanice Maffei and Joanne Spigner are the founding partners of VisionFirst, helping teams to envision their future state and innovate to get there. They invented the rapid visioning tool, Vision-in-a-Box® and co-hosted a weekly program, “Invent the Future,” which showcased innovators in business, education and not-for-profits.

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  1. It is a great trait in a leader when he acknowledges his mistakes, takes recourse, and moves on. But, the impact on followers can be devastating. A five feet tall person follows a seven feet tall leader across a river. Half way across, the tall leader determines that the river is swollen and quickly returns to the safe shore. But the five feet tall guy has already drowned. It is important for followers to have their own strategy to gage the depth of the stream or the gulf between the peaks that the leader is venturing to cross lest they don’t survive to learn the lesson.

  2. Som, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. You make a good point about “fellowship” – that we need to stay vigilant, ask questions, and calibrate approaches as we “gauge the depth” of any new path. That said, there is some magic in supporting bold ideas and facing their consequences. What we like about Hastings is the risk-taking, the learning and the moving on.
    All good things in your adventures in innovation!

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