Cultural Change in the Media: we need to be protagonists and apprentices in the transformation

For Joao Adao, Facebook Managing Director for Latin America, news organizations deal successfully with the new scenarios when they take a leadership role and decide to learn about the new world.

by Daniela Pena | March 4, 2021

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For Joao Adao, Facebook Managing Director for Latin America, news organizations deal successfully with the new scenarios when they take a leadership role and decide to learn about the new world.

The third session of the “Cultural Change Ignition Program”, organized by WAN-lFRA and the Facebook Journalism Project, featured guest speakers Joao Adao, Facebook Managing Director for Latin America, and Ryan M. Thomas, CEO of Eyam Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics. Adao and Thomas shared their own experiences in corporate digital changes outside the news industry with executives from Perfil (Argentina); A Gazeta, Band, Gazeta do Povo, O Globo, Record TV, SBT (Brazil), Caracol, Revista Semana (Colombia), and AM de León, El Debate, El Financiero, Milenio, Proceso y TV Azteca (Mexico).

Thomas discussed his experience as Director of News Operations for the Catholic News Agency EWTN News and Advisor to the Vatican for Digital Transformation. Meanwhile, Adao told participants about the change he spearheaded several years ago in the Yellow Pages. If the Catholic Church, with its centuries-old power and influence, and the Yellow Pages, with a 50-year monopoly, could adapt to a new world, why shouldn´t the media change? This was the focus of the third session of the “Cultural Change Ignition Program”.

Why is it so difficult to for organizations to change?

For Adao, the main obstacle to change is human nature: “We humans are the best machines for avoiding change.” The challenge is even more daunting if the company has a history of success and a dominant market position. In many cases, in the face of disruption, a know-it-all mindset sets in. “When the dynamics change and challenges appear, we take refuge in a know-it-all position. We believe our point of view is right, and anybody who comes with a different opinion is wrong,” Adao says. This mindset is even more harmful in the dynamic digital scenario: “In a digital environment, if you believe you know it all, you´re going to lose, because the environment is bound to change quickly.

The other attitude that hinders change is playing the victim. “If there´s a problem, it´s somewhere else. I´m innocent, I´m a victim. The problem with playing the victim is that you´re not part of the solution.” So, the recommendation by the Regional Director is to take the role of protagonists.

Thomas agrees with the diagnosis by Adao: “In every organization with a certain level of power and influence, when that level begins to decline, many people dig into the trenches, and rather than innovating and disrupting the way things are done, they cling to this power.

How can organizations adapt to new scenarios?

The change is cultural and takes time: “You change a culture one conversation at a time. There is no magic moment or magic meeting where people leave and say, “OK, I got it.” Because we´re human, and human nature is denial or victimization,” Joao Adao says.

“My focus at the Yellow Pages was to change this culture from playing the victim to outside circumstances to being the protagonist of own´s own destiny. And to stop being the know-it-all, thinking you have all the answers, rather, to be apprentices. What new skills do we need to learn to navigate in this world? That was the cultural challenge,” Joao Adao said.

Meanwhile, in a process of transformation, where changes sometimes become urgent, or when at least the organization needs to show small victories, Thomas warns of the usual temptation to skip stages: “I believe we have to devote more time to analysis and planning, and if we perform these two stages well, the execution stage with clarity almost happens by itself.”

In the coming weeks, WAN-IFRA will publish a report with more information on this session and with the main lessons learned from the Cultural Change Ignition Program”.

Author: Andrea Schulte

© 2021 WAN-IFRA

World Association of News Publishers


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