NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY AND THE UNKNOWN: equipping Screen Business Producers to negotiate and thrive in disrupted environments

GERARD REED—The post-pandemic workforce is seemingly the same in many respects to its pre-pandemic condition, though in actuality it has been transformed by a profound experience. To reconstitute economically and socially in the post-pandemic era, there is immense value in examining the virtues, and appreciating the consequences of the pandemic on the regional, national, and global economy.   

There is a need for strategic leadership to provide flexibility and adaptation as we prepare for future disruption (Christensen, Raynor, and Macdonald, 2015; Christensen, 2016) and never more so than as we recover and adjust in a post-pandemic global economy (Moss, 2022) across a range of sectors. For the purposes of this discussion Screen Business for emergent and experienced Producers is examined and backgrounded.

Leading teams through disruption – whether economic, environmental, or societal – requires emotional and social intelligence, tempered with strategic planning skills and an array of refined and nuanced applications in business (Jacobides & Reeves, 2020). For educators the prospect of equipping students with an increased skill set to provide insight and inspiration to leadership, and followership alike, provides challenges to teaching and learning that in itself requires adaptation.

This paper discusses modes by which it is possible to adapt in real-time to engage with uncertainty and the unknown in screen business pedagogy and consider applications of revised and flexible strategic management approaches across screen business and other sectors (Reed, 2022).

The enterprises that practitioners construct, the courses that educators teach, the leadership skills that are imparted, need to be flexible for what is yet-to-be.

Future leaders in screen business, and other sectors, need to be comfortable with change and be prepared to thrive in environments of uncertainty and disruption (Christensen, Raynor, and Macdonald, 2015; Christensen, 2016). 

Implementing models of leadership for teams, enterprise or management may be misguided when it is directed towards an application of ‘busyness’ – a cultural drive that has the appearance of productivity (Waytz, 2023) though in essence belies inefficiency. The appearance of activity and action is a form of cultural normative behaviour that requires constant adjustment. Filling the void of a working day with activity may have the appearance of productivity, and may satisfy a traditional view of the work ethic, however, to align busyness with effectiveness in terms of that productivity is likely to be flawed to false in its implementation (Moss, 2022). Change is the true constant and the systems and processes we implement in business may become aged and redundant with the progression of time, and substantive changes in the economy and society.

The development of trust in team creation and the efficacy of its culture is to organise for a leadership that is derived through conscious planning, implementation of strategy and vision to derive sophisticated structures of management. To develop a culture of psychological and cultural safety, as well as a true appreciation of the differences in time itself is of immense guidance when appreciating notions of busyness (Waytz, 2023). There are different time frames to consider for example polychromatic time may be relevant across cultures who place value on the relationship between peoples rather than emphasising the output of the interaction as of primary importance. For the monochromatic, clock or industrial time application there is a linear quality that puts the process of outputs as its primary goal with the relationship between peoples supporting this undertaking (Piercy, 2019). Time is a crucial consideration, and a consciousness of its diversity across societies equips the educator, manager or leader with the skills necessary to understand and implement its complexities. There is a creativity and a technical mastery of the leadership skills necessary, through open and diverse experiences as relational to time, to implement improvements that have the potential to transcend the former busyness formats of business management and its notions of premier currency (McIntyre-Mills, 2021; Pisano, 2019). 

For the Screen Producer the existence of disruption has been aligned with a fragmentation of the screen sector over more than a decade. Despite a fragmentation where existing segments of the screen market begin to reduce there has been overall increased growth in the screen market and therefore increased opportunity for the Screen Producer (Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-2026, 2023). The changes in the screen market have meant that Screen Producers are required to be adaptive and enhance entrepreneurial skills through the experience of adaptation to disrupted markets as the new norm in the sector.

For the Screen Producer the notion of time may be elastic in its scope with the pressures of budget, scheduling, and competitive market forces that require its teams to achieve more outputs with less resources.

There is volatility, even a potential hostility in terms of market forces when considering the pressure that the Screen Producer may endure to secure project funding and then may be tasked to deliver content with a reduction of time, fiscal and physical resourcing. The busyness in this context may be because of an unrealistic set of constraints that have been accepted to secure contracted work opportunities because that is the new normative accepted format of the sector, pre and post pandemic. For the Screen Producer the challenge is therefore how to formulate teams and structures that maintain safety across work standards and regulations (Australian Screen Industry Code of Practice, 2023), including psychological, culture, physical, social, and emotional considerations as paramount for the health and safety of teams.

Busyness can therefore be contextualised in a range of modes and applications that may differ depending upon environment, circumstances of engagement, time, fiscal abundance or restraint, to a range of organisational elements from tactical to strategic implementations.

We need to trust employees to be the most productive they can be without unnecessary micromanagement of time and resources. Leadership considerations are not fixed, but need to be flexible, agile, and movable with a decision maker needing to take leadership to a sophisticated level of sharing and acute accountability (Pisano, 2019; Waytz, 2023). When considering the paradox of a horizontal leadership structure, for example, is that it requires a great deal of discipline from all parties involved to be efficient and successful in its optimum functionality. 

For pedagogy these all-discipline issues regarding leadership education are akin to horizontal leadership modes that are not about being less involved but providing focused management and business solutions based upon goals, outcomes and strategy.

Leadership education must be very clear for students and teachers alike to engender all members of the team to become both good leaders, and followers, as appropriate, so that they can contribute to an environment of generosity, empathy, and inclusion that benefits all participants from educator to student, to managerial leader – either in-situ or yet-to-be.

It is in times of adversity that we seek solutions to what is unknown or uncertain which are often rich in their lessons and outputs. We can bring a conscious leadership position to the post-pandemic world (Moss, 2022) that is informed and considered of all that has been encountered and overcome, as well as instructional to better processes, formats, and innovations ( Juma, 2019; Kim & Mauborgne, 2005). For the educator, student, manager or leader there is planning required for uncertainty and the unknown still to come as we meet new challenges in our society, its economy, and sectors to re-format for the next new normal.

Reference

Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-2026. (2023). Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), retrieved 14 November 2023, https://www.pwc.com.au/about-us/insights/non-executive-directors/australian-entertainment-media-outlook-2022-2026.html

Australian Screen Industry Code of Practice. (2023). Screen Producers Australia, viewed 28 November 2023, https://www.screenproducers.org.au/assets/PR/1.-Screen-Industry-Code-of-Practice.pdf

Christensen, C. Raynor, M. and McDonald, R. (2015). What is Disruptive Innovation? Harvard Business Review: Boston. 

Christensen, C. (2016). The Innovator’s Dilemma: Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change, Harvard Business Review: Boston. 

Jacobides, M. G. Reeves, M. (2020). Adapt Your Business to the New Reality. Harvard Business Review: Boston.

https://hbr.org/2020/09/adapt-your-business-to-the-new-reality

Juma, C. (2019). Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. Oxford University Press: New York.

Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue ocean strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. Harvard Business School press: Boston.

McIntyre-Mills, J. J. (2021). The importance of relationality: A note on co-determinism, multispecies relationships, and implications of COVID-19. Systems Research and Behavioural Science, 39(2):339-353. 

Moss, J. (2022). The Pandemic Changed Us. Now Companies have to Change Too. Harvard Business Review: Boston. https://hbr.org/2022/07/the-pandemic-changed-us-now-companies-have-to-change-too

Piercy, C. W. (2019). Problem Solving in Teams and Groups. University of Kansas Libraries: Kansas.

Pisano, G. P. (2019). The Hard Truth About Creative Cultures. Harvard Business Review: Boston.

Reed, G. A. (2022). Entrepreneurs Navigating a Universe of Disruption. Palgrave Macmillan: Singapore.

Waytz, A. (2023). Beware a Culture of Busyness. Harvard Business Review: Boston.

https://hbr.org/2023/03/beware-a-culture-of-busyness

Dr. Gerard Reed is a Senior Lecturer in Screen Business at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and has experience in economic development with an emphasis on entrepreneurial and innovative screen business practices developed through post-graduate studies at The University of Adelaide’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC), and involvement with the South Australia Department of State Development and across industry. As subject leader for the Master of Arts Screen: Business (MASB), Gerard actively pursues industry-related applied technological innovation inclusions for the screen and audio sector, across course materials, and their delivery.

In his professional capacity, Gerard has experience as a producer, director, writer, director of photography, editor, narrator and researcher for factual programming, with a specialisation in documentary produced formats, across platform and broadcast television applications. He has completed scripting, and production, for television documentary programming funded by the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Screen Australia, Foxtel, A+E Networks International, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Gerard holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship and a Master of Entrepreneurship degree from The University of Adelaide, Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation, and Innovation Centre (ECIC), a Master of Arts degree from The University of the Arts, London (UAL), and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia.

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