For those of you who have been following my journey building Matter Ventures, you know that I made the difficult decision to pause late last year in order to flare on new and different ways to make a difference in the space. Many of you reached out saying how much Matter has impacted you and your organization. You reinforced how deep of a need Matter had filled in the journalism industry and how much of a gap its absence has left behind.
One person who reached out was longtime Matter mentor Raju Narisetti. He had an idea: What if you were able to continue the impact of Matter by taking over the Sulzberger Program at Columbia Journalism School and infusing the essence of Matter into it?
It was a chance for Matter to live on when it was needed the most. I was in.
While this is, in essence, a side gig as I continue to flare on what I will pour myself into full-time, it guarantees that I have an outlet to continue to impact leaders within journalism and it ensures that the transformative experience of Matter has the opportunity to continue in a new form.
The redesigned Sulzberger Program draws heavily from my experience training both entrepreneurs and journalism leaders through Matter. But it also combines forces with Raju, who has led internal transformation at some of the most important journalism institutions. In addition, it leverages the assets of Columbia University, pulling instructors from Columbia Journalism and Business Schools, drawing industry innovators working in one of the world’s great media capitals, and tapping into the powerful Sulzberger alumni network. This community will give Sulzberger Fellows a powerful breadth of perspective on what it takes to lead innovation in media and journalism.
Like any rising executive, these Fellows need a way to improve their leadership, business, and management skills while on the job. But because they are also navigating an industry facing constant disruption, traditional management training won’t suffice. They need to build cultures and create processes within these media companies that doesn’t just help them come up with “the next big thing” but enables the organization to constantly understand the changing needs of their audiences, experiment with emerging technologies, and seek sustainable business models as the world rapidly changes beneath their feet. They need to recognize opportunities for innovation and pursue them without being told what to do or how to do it. They need to lead.
Through the redesigned Sulzberger Program, these rising leaders will learn how to be entrepreneurial within their own media organizations. This is a hands-on, real-world, innovation-focused mini-executive MBA for rising leaders in the fast transforming world of media and journalism.
The program is organized from the point of view of the Fellow as the GM/CEO/Founder of their own internal venture or enterprise-wide project. At the heart of the program is the Sulzberger Project. Each Fellow will be required to define a project of strategic importance to their employer that they will lead throughout the course of the program. The project can be the launch of a brand new initiative, product, or strategy but it can also be taking charge of an existing one. Most importantly, it should be mission critical to the organization and fit naturally into the Fellow’s full-time job.
The 16-week program starts on Jan. 6 with an intensive two weeks on campus at Columbia University. The first week is an immersive team-based experience where Fellows will learn how to build a venture from scratch using design thinking processes and mindsets. The second week builds on the venture frameworks established in week one and dives deeper into each module through a series of lectures, case studies, workshops, and guest speakers leveraging experts throughout Columbia and the industry at large.
The modules that organize the Sulzberger experience will be based on the leader as an individual, the leader in the context of a team, and the leader deeply understanding the core variables that must be combined in any successful innovation. Those “venture variables” include understanding Top-Down Trends (The Macro Environment), developing a Bottom-Up Point of View (Audience/User/Customer), creating and managing a Minimum Desirable Experience (Product & User Experience), finding a sustainable Business Model, executing on a Growth Hypothesis (Marketing), establishing a Sustainable Competition Advantage (Strategy), and putting it all together in a Story that coherently brings all these variables together in a vision, plan, and pitch to obtain resources.
After two weeks at Columbia, Fellows will return to their organizations with new lenses on themselves, their teams, and their organization. Fellows will immediately get an opportunity to directly apply their learning to their own organization through a series of assignments as well as the ongoing project. They will receive feedback and support through regular check-ins with their cohort and myself.
On April 20, Fellows will return to Columbia for the final week of the Sulzberger Program ready to share and discuss their real-world experiences while going deeper into the modules through more lectures, case studies, workshops, and guest speakers. The Sulzberger experience will conclude with final project presentations and the opportunity to pitch key stakeholders at their own company.
As with anything I touch, this experience is a prototype and always will be. In a rapidly changing industry, the Sulzberger program will need to change with it. We will strive to deliver timely case studies and guest speakers, adjust modules to fit the observed needs of our Fellows and their companies, and constantly improve through feedback.
If you have any case studies, expertise, or feedback that that you think would be particularly relevant to our Fellows, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m excited. Are you? If so, dig into the details and apply here.