One unintended consequence of the merged-media landscape is that it has made it easier for broadcast and cable executives to make the jump to the Internet, as witness our cover story and the list of executives who have made the move. There are those champagne wishes and IPO dreams, of course, powerful aphrodisiacs all by themselves. But there is also the challenge and freedom of working for a company that doesn't have more management layers than rings on a redwood. Take Ken Krushel, a former NBC executive and half of the dotcom couple that includes Fort Disney veteran Pat Fili-Krushel. "At some point, large companies are not rewarding," he says. " They're hierarchical, intrinsically political and, by definition, do not move quickly." That sounds like a warning to the mega-media world that it buries the entrepreneurial spirit at its peril.
That warning is not the only one that should be sounded, however. The bells on Wall Street last week may have been tolling for the Internet start-ups. If the bubble hasn't burst, it is showing signs of the strain of cash burn and little return. If that trend continues, some of the executives wooed by the Net could gain a newfound respect for corporate stability and its dividends. Winning and losing, of course, are both the province of risk taking. And it is that spirit of adventure, balanced with the feeling of control and the possibility of reward for risk, that the old-line companies must maintain if they are to compete.
In the past, corporate's message may have been "my way or the highway." For today's top-and mid-level executives-the option is "my way or the I-way." Increasingly, the I's have it.