Creating the Conditions for Success

Darren Childs

UKTV has just became the first broadcaster to be recognised by Best Companies, the body behind The Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For list. Of the 40 or so awards UKTV has won in the last five years, it?s one that makes me particularly proud.

In UK media, the concept of ?organisational culture? is often misunderstood but to me it is clear as day: creating the conditions from which success may emerge. it?s no coincidence that we're celebrating our Best Companies win in the very year that we also posted record results.

It is often said that innovation is an organisation?s only true form of competitive advantage. Broadcasters are now competing for talent, not just with each other, but with all kinds of creative and digital organisations. To survive the changes and challenges we face today, we need the best talent, and that talent will go to the places where they?ll be most liberated to create and to innovate.

At UKTV we've removed the ?digital ghetto? that confined some other institutions and I have chosen not to have a CTO because everyone here is in charge of their own digital future. This has made it easier to break out of conventional broadcast thinking and embrace adjacent platforms, and it?s our digital brands that are now expanding our reach, as well as our linear channels. We're focused on our ?traditional? digital platforms of course, but I'm just as interested in our Dave On Demand app and new websites with integrated On Demand players and social. Digital product development doesn?t happen in one specific corner of the office, it happens everywhere, and for us that means offering training and development to share the digital knowledge and get everybody innovating. We established the UKTV Academy to do this.

The broadcasting industry used to be old-fashioned, hierarchical and process-driven, with new ideas confronted by a series of gatekeepers all equipped with the power to say no. But in our organisation at least, that model no longer exists. We thrive on a culture that encourages and rewards new thinking and we treat success and failure as equal learning opportunities.

One initiative at UKTV is an ?innovation pot? - funding for new concepts that couldn?t be achieved in the every day and we're looking for passion and novelty, not a short-term ROI. To date, 80% of staff who?ve submitted ideas have received support and mentoring to bring these ideas to life.

The working environment is important. Conversation and ideas buzz around the 220 people in our open-plan, single floor office. Our meeting rooms remind us of the identity of our channels: the Dave room contains a full suit of armour, there are park benches in the Eden room. Our big, open-plan kitchen is home to our enormous, weekly, noisy all-staff gatherings where we openly talk to everybody about what's important.

We also give people time out to be involved in charitable activities, whether cycling to Paris for our nominated charity, Pancreatic Cancer (there are 29 of us doing that) or mentoring teenagers or reading to school kids in Hammersmith.

Across the company, everyone knows the values we stand for and staff?s extraordinary efforts are always given public recognition and reward.

You might be thinking that this approach doesn?t sound right for your company, but what ever you do the real key is for it to be authentic. That way talent will stay attracted to media, and that for me is the best insurance against the creative and business challenges of the future. We may not all succeed, but in the current competitive and digital world, those who don?t even try seem certain to fail.