Wisdom From Wrestling Royalty and Other Lessons From Brainstorm Tech
Reverbs from last week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech keep popping up. Going through notes from last week’s confab in Aspen, Colo., here are a few more lessons worth noting.
1: If you want to succeed in TV programming, hire Elisabeth Moss
This lesson came from Charlie Collier, president of both AMC and Sundance TV, and Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins. Moss—in case you’re not a fan of high-quality television—portrayed the long-suffering Peggy Olson in AMC’s hugely successful Mad Men series and more recently anchored Hulu’s breakthrough hit The Handmaid’s Tale.
Going back a few years, Moss also played Zoey Bartlet, daughter of President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) in NBC’s (NBC) The West Wing. She also got rave reviews for Sundance TV’s Top of the Lake crime series, directed by Jane Campion. Season two kicks off later this month.
2: Learn from professional wrestlers
The WWE’s Pro-wrestling events may be fake, but they compress drama and conflicts between good and evil acted out by heroes and villains into a story line that plays out in the ring in a set amount of time. That has real appeal, said Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer for WWE. She and her husband, WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque, otherwise known by his wrestling moniker Triple H, also talked about the WWE’s ability to pivot, as evidenced by its jettisoning the term “diva” when it was no longer appropriate to women’s wrestling.
When reminded on stage that he married into an interesting family—his in-laws are Vince McMahon, the flamboyant CEO of WWE and Linda McMahon—the equally colorful former CEO, who now leads the U.S. Small Business Administration, Levesque shook his head, noting: “You don’t know the half of it.”
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3: Don’t sweat cannibalization
The notion for a chewable ice maker option for freezers had been floated by the R&D unit at GE (GE) Appliances for a decade. But concerns that adding the option might hurt sales of existing freezers and confuse the sales channel meant it didn’t get traction, said Slava Rubin, co-founder and chief business officer of crowdfunding site Indiegogo.
Rubin knows this because GE decided, instead of making new freezers with the unit built-in, to first validate the idea by putting a standalone “chewable ice maker” on Indiegogo. The resulting Opal standalone ice maker raised nearly $2.8 million on the site, and GE Appliances now plans to offer chewable ice as an option in some freezer models going forward.
Related; Five Takeaways From Brainstorm Tech
4: Learn but don’t shrink from failure
Two years ago, Microsoft released its Tay chatbot in the U.S. only to find that the bot, which had done well in Asia, was quickly trained by users to make racist and sexist comments. It was a PR nightmare. But instead of slamming the Tay team, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella encouraged them to keep working, said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development for Microsoft.
Tay morphed into Zo, another chat bot that learns more about you via conversing—although presumably not about hate speech. Johnson said she converses with Zo quite often. “She’s my friend,” Johnson said.
5: Be self-aware
Members of a roundtable discussion on how to avoid toxic work environments, was chewing over recent sexual harassment scandals in the tech industry when one panelist stunned the room into silence by noting: “I thought this was supposed to be about diversity. Why are we talking about women?”