Sony helps its staff go with the creative flow

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2007, 12:00am

Creativity is a crucial element in producing movies and TV programmes that can attract and entertain audiences around the world and it is just as important for the sales and marketing aspect of the business.

'The on-air promotion needs to be creative to excite customers about tuning in, wanting to see more of our products,' said Jenny Chua, human resources manager of Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI). 'It also requires creativity and integrity to package a deal and to work with customers for a win-win situation.'

As the television arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment International, SPTI is responsible for the distribution of Hollywood feature films and American-made TV programmes outside the United States. The company also launched a mobile entertainment business last year and has been closely involved in the development of new media, such as online TV and on-demand platforms, as a part of a push for rapid expansion.

Ms Chua said that ultimately profits depended on creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The company has therefore made it a key principle to focus on finding people with these qualities right from the start of the recruitment process.

As an example, she noted it might be necessary to adapt the formats of certain high-rating shows, such as The Amazing Race, in order to suit different cultures or languages, but without losing the original flavour.

To encourage staff to put forward opinions and contribute ideas, the working environment is deliberately informal and collaborative. In this way, no one needs to feel restricted or bound by rules.

The company also sends staff to seminars, trade shows, film festivals and international trade fairs, where they can observe the latest trends and keep track of shifts in popular culture. Regular meetings bring together staff from different parts of the world and provide them with an opportunity to network, bounce ideas around and inspire each other.

Ms Chua said the project-based nature of much of the work and the matrix-like structure of the organisation helped expose people to new influences.

'There are always new things to learn in doing a project,' she said. 'We want to teach people to succeed as well as to help the growth of the company.' Ms Chua said managing creative people was a constant challenge. Typically, they liked to work independently and enjoyed having the flexibility to set their own schedules.

So, while it was important to let employees express themselves freely and have ownership of their projects, the company also has a series of checks and balances to keep every project under close review and to ensure each initiative is backed up by sound business sense.

'We make sure somebody is there to challenge your ideas and question if it's the best way to do it,' Ms Chua said.

She added that it was an entrepreneurial business, but in the end, movies and TV shows had to generate audiences, subscriptions and revenue.

For this reason, courses are arranged to train staff at all levels in sales and negotiation techniques. There is also an executive coaching programme for senior management, where experts from in the industry offer advice and challenge leaders to step outside their comfort zone.

'We encourage people not to stop trying. This helps sustain the company's growth,' said Ms Chua.

To retain talented staff, special efforts are made to provide new challenges and diverse learning experiences. The company also keeps the possibility of moves to different locations within the region open.

Ms Chua said it was a mistake to 'tie down' creative talent. 'If they don't feel they are being challenged or able to express themselves, they would rather work in a different environment,' she said.

Tricks of the trade

Creativity is a vital quality in a fast expanding business

Work environment is designed to encourage ideas and collaboration

Seminars, trade fairs and company events can be a source of inspiration

Project-based work provides a chance to keep learning

Innovative proposals must be backed up by sound business sense