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Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership: (7/10)

Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership (Masterclass): Summary & Review 

Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership is a 13-lesson online course on business strategy and leadership in which Bob Iger, the course instructor, and former Disney CEO, teaches the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine one of the world’s most beloved brands.

Full Summary

About The Professor: Bob Iger is an American businessman who is executive chairman, chairman of the board, and former CEO of the Walt Disney Company. He previously served as president of ABC Television from 1994–1995 and as president/COO of Capital Cities/ABC from 1995 until its acquisition by Disney in 1996.

Lesson #1: Introduction

#1: Accept that there are and will be risks

“So, I try to give people a sense that, you know, we’re in businesses that are creatively rooted. Because of that, they don’t necessarily lend themselves to absolutes going into something that tells us whether something is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There’s something inherent in the creative process that is a risk, to begin with. And, in order to run a successful creative entity, then you have to embrace the fact that everything is a risk, that nothing is a given, that there are unknowns all the time, and that success can be fantastic and exhilarating and feel really great, but failure can be just around the corner. And, you have to have the ability to absorb failure or to manage failure knowing at the beginning that nothing was a given that nothing was an absolute.”

#2: Be true to yourself

“I think it’s incredibly important for you to be true to yourself, to who you are, and to what you represent before you can be true to anyone else.”

Lesson #2: Using Your Time Effectively

#1: Take the time to meditate on your work

Iger: “I happen to believe that in every day you need to have some quiet time to think where you’re not really being bombarded by the external forces. In some cases, you’re not doing email, you’re not watching television, you’re not doing anything really but enabling yourself to concentrate on whatever it is you might be anticipating or what you are planning to do. That’s vital.”

Iger describes this as energy-producing because it’s an effective and efficient way of thinking about your work (albeit not always the most relaxing).

#2: (4:15 a.m.) Structuring the day

“Wake and exercise in solitude—ideally in a dim, serene place—while listening to music that facilitates a meditative headspace. Allow your mind to wander and wrestle with some of the challenges you may be facing. Don’t pollute this time by allowing the minutiae of work to creep in; avoid looking at your email at all costs. Focus on the bigger picture, where you indulge in free-flow creative problem-solving. This is the time of day when you’re at your most imaginative. Don’t rush it and don’t waste it.” 

#3: (6:30 a.m.) Arrive at office

“Arrive at work. If you’re running the show, you should be the first one there. Be the one who puts on the coffee. Pour yourself a cup, and get the caffeine flowing. For Bob, this early-morning ritual gives him time to settle in, set his intention for the day, and work out an agenda and list of goals for himself before he’s overwhelmed by the needs of others. Whether you’re already running a company or working your way up the ladder, the vast majority of your job is going to involve communication, so this alone time is a must.”

Iger prefers to be the first one to the office so he can ease into the day, as opposed to showing up when it’s packed so he can avoid being bombarded by his team.

#4: (4:30 p.m.) Head home early

“Head home early—or try to if you can (Bob has more control over his schedule than the average bear). Giving yourself a hard out means more time to nourish your relationships while you still have the energy. Spending time with people you love—whether that means grabbing dinner with a friend, working out with your spouse, or hanging with your kids before their bedtime—will center you in your priorities. Once you feel refreshed, take a few hours to tackle any work problems you’ve brought home with you. End your day by doing something pleasant and enriching but not directly work-related, like reading a novel, journaling, or watching some TV.”

#5: (8:00 - 10:00 p.m.) “Homework”

“...I typically work at home in some form from 8:00 to 10:00 every night. And, at some point, I put it all away and try to read something for pleasure or watch a television show that isn’t somehow or another directly connected to work. Or, do something that is just a little bit more distant from my job.”

#6: Infusing creativity into everyday

“So what qualifies as a ‘successful’ day? You’ll have to define this on your own terms, but start by thinking back on what you’ve accomplished in the last 24 hours. In your phone or a notebook, keep track of all of your wins on any given day, no matter how big or small. Looking back on that list will help you find a sense of satisfaction, even when it feels like your intention for the day got derailed.”

This is also what Grant Cardone recommends and has a category for on his “10X Planner” (see The 10X Rule).

#7: Bob’s advice

  1. Have a daily routine.
  2. Prioritize a quiet time every day.
  3. Make a checklist of tasks. (Iger also keeps a mental checklist of sometimes 10-20 tasks).
  4. Reflect on the things you’ve accomplished.
  5. Allow time for creativity and creative thinking.

Lesson #3: Organizational Focus, Strategy & Priorities

“Focus is very important for good leadership because people need to have a sense of what the priorities of the organization they work for are and what their priorities need to be -- meaning not just a set of values and how they behave, but how they spend their time. What’s important in terms of what they do at work and that obviously ties directly to a strategic focus of the company.”

#1: How to develop your company strategy like Disney

Iger: “In 2004, the board decided that a new CEO needed to be chosen for the company and I was the only internal candidate...And I knew in entering that [interview] process that I was going to be pressed by board members—not just once, but maybe throughout the process—about how I intended to run the company. What the company’s priorities needed to be, what our strategic focus needed to be -- essentially, how we were going to operate the company...As I began to think that through, a friend of mine who had been a marketing and political consultant—and quite a successful one—came in and handed me a deck, basically a 10-page document that he said was my ‘campaign’...essentially, describing to me a process that would mirror the same process that a candidate may go through to convince voters to elect them...And, in fact, he asked the question, ‘What are your priorities?’ And, I started to list them. And, when I got to five or six he said, ‘Stop right there.’ I think he actually faked a yawn. And, he was suggesting to me that if you are going to have strategies for the company, they need to be just a few of them. There couldn’t be many of them. The reason for that was that the more you had, the less focus there would be and the more spread out the allocation of time and capital would be.”

So, working with his friend, at the time, Iger narrowed it down to three strategic priorities:

  1. Invest in creativity. (Iger’s exact words were, “High-quality branded content or creativity.”)
  2. Embrace technology. (The reasoning was to be able to make their storytelling and content more compelling and higher quality as well as to reach people in more innovative ways.)
  3. Grow globally. (At the time, Disney’s presence in many markets around the world was relatively “shallow in nature”, as Iger put it.)

And, you can probably guess how this turned out:

Iger: “I began to think about how best to articulate them [the strategic priorities]. I started to articulate them to the board. Ultimately, I got the job. And, the next step was to articulate them to the company, and then ultimately to implement them.”

#2: Communicating strategy

“A strategy is only as good as your ability to articulate it. The clarity becomes incredibly important. Clarity actually is an essential ingredient to good leadership as well.”

When leading people, be clear about what you expect of them. This clarity is very important since, when you’re running a company, you’re communicating with the people who are going to go out and implement your vision across the entire company.

When communicating strategy, be clear on: 

  1. Why the strategies chosen are the strategies that the company should adopt.
  2. How to adopt them. 
  3. The importance of those strategies. 
  4. A value-proposition tied to those strategies. (e.g. “If we do this, then such and such will happen.”)

#3: Reinforce your strategic priorities

Given that clear communication is so important to make sure your vision for the company is implemented accurately, it’s also wise to repeat your effective communication on a constant basis. This will reinforce your strategic priorities.

And, since marketplace conditions can change, exchanging input and ideas with the members of your company is a great opportunity to reinforce your strategic priorities.

Iger: “I happen to believe that face-to-face interaction can be extremely effective. So, we meet on a weekly basis—not only to give me an opportunity to re-articulate strategies and priorities, but to give them the effect of the implementation of those strategies on their businesses and on the company’s bottom line.”

#4: How Iger conducts productive meetings with intention

  1. Meets every Monday over lunch with his direct reports (up to ten people).
  2. Re-articulates his priorities.
  3. Adjusts his priorities if needed.
  4. Expresses what’s on his mind.
  5. Reacts to the events of the week (at times, not always).
  6. Gathers feedback from his direct reports on what they’re seeing and hearing.
  7. Gathers feedback from his direct reports on what their priorities might be.
  8. Gathers information from his direct reports on what their challenges and the opportunities are.
  9. Provides any needed advice to his direct reports.
  10. Gathers advice from his direct reports.

#5: Bob’s advice

  1. Focus is imperative for strong leadership.
  2. Define, share, and reinforce your strategic priorities regularly.
  3. Clarity is an essential ingredient for good leadership.
  4. Evolve and adapt to the times.

Lesson #4: Taking Giant Swings (Pixar Acquisition Case Study)

#1: Focus forward when communicating with members of your company

Iger: “...I painted a picture to the board [about Disney Animation] that was accurate but pretty bleak. And, one that they had not focused on as much over the prior at least 10 years. And, their first reaction was quite negative because they believe that Disney Animation was in better shape than I was describing and, in particular, they were a bit upset that they weren’t as aware of it as perhaps they should have been. I ultimately told them that I thought the past was the past and we shouldn’t really dwell on it. That this is all about the future and the future needed to be pointed in a better direction in terms of animation."

#2: Put the company before yourself when it fits within an eagle approach

Iger: “There was also a great concern about Steve Jobs. He owned 50% of Pixar. And, since the idea of buying Pixar would ultimately lead us to issuing stock to purchase it, Steve could become the biggest stockholder in the Walt Disney Company and could exert a huge amount of influence over our company. And, there were a number of people who advised me that that would be a big mistake. I’d just become CEO and then if Steve became our largest shareholder, he would probably try to run Disney, and that would be a ‘huge mistake for me’. My reaction to that, of course, was that if Steve Jobs could exert influence over Disney, even if it meant him ultimately running Disney, that would be great for the Disney shareholders. It was really less about me and more about Disney.”

#3: Empathize with your negotiation partner to create trust-based influence

Iger: “...when it came time to consider buying Pixar and when I engaged with Steve Jobs initially on that discussion, one of the first things that he brought up with me is that the culture of Pixar was incredibly valuable and important and worthy of respect. And, he worried out loud to me, articulating in very direct ways, that if Disney tried to kill the culture of Pixar or influence it in any way, then we would end up with a lot of failure. And, we would essentially prevent Pixar from making great films again. I immediately was able to tell him that I’d been acquired twice and I knew a lot about what it was like. And, that firsthand knowledge was incredibly important to him because of how authentic it was because I was able to articulate very firsthand that I respected the value of culture. And, in promising Steve that I would respect and value and enable the Pixar culture to continue, I did so in a very effective way and a very genuine way because of the real experience that I had had.”

Chris Voss also encourages empathy for persuading your counterpart to “give you your deal” (see “trust-based influence”).

#4: Bob’s advice

  1. Identify weaknesses and develop solutions.
  2. It’s all about the creative talent.
  3. Relationships can be repaired.
  4. Be confident in your instincts.
  5. Enable your team to do their best work.
  6. Respect the value of culture.

Lesson #5: The Art of Negotiation

“ two people have the same negotiating style.”

#1: The expedient negotiation style

Iger: “In my case, my negotiating style is typically to be expedient. I’m not a believer in stretched-out or long-term negotiations. I like to get deals done relatively quickly.”

“When it comes to dealmaking, one of Bob’s primary values is efficiency. And his strategy for getting deals done quickly is being candid.”

Iger: “I typically like to put things on the table in a fairly candid manner, in a direct manner, and quickly.”

“To the novice, Bob might appear to be tipping his hand by being candid. But Bob believes that being upfront with your needs is imperative. Not only does it save time by nixing the gamesmanship of negotiation, but it also gives the other party an opportunity to outline what they hope to gain from the deal. Bob’s strategy means you have to let go of zero-sum-game thinking. Instead of seeing yourself as the winner or loser of a negotiation, you instead open yourself up to the ways both parties are benefiting.”

As an example of Iger’s candid, somewhat fast-paced negotiation style, here’s how he approached Steve Jobs about buying Pixar:

[Late afternoon in early October 2005]

Iger: “Steve, I’ve got a crazy idea for you.”

Steve: “What’s that?”

Iger: “What about Disney acquiring Pixar?”

Steve: “Tell me more about your crazy idea.”

Iger: “I’ve been thinking about the need to fix Disney Animation. I don’t have any great solutions. The one idea that keeps coming back to me is the notion of buying Pixar. You’ve got the great talent and the great technology. We’ve got the great legacy that is Disney.”

Steve: (pauses) 

Steve: “It’s not the craziest idea I’ve ever heard. Why don’t you come up and we’ll talk about it?”

And, on this approach, the MasterClass course workbook notes, “For instance, when Bob first talked to Steve Jobs about acquiring Pixar, Bob was blunt about wanting to buy the company—not only that, but he explained why it was essential for Disney to do so. His honesty softened the negotiation, which in turn allowed for more authentic and efficient negotiating.”

#2: Encourage collaborative frames in your approach

Iger: “Each party, I believe, is served better if they come away from the negotiation having felt like they’ve accomplished something or they’ve won something. So, I don’t have a ‘winner-take-all’ approach when it comes to negotiations. I think if you go into a negotiation with a winner-take-all approach, the negotiation is less expedient. It typically takes longer because the other side doesn’t want to give up everything in the negotiation. So, I like to go in knowing that there are things that I need to achieve, that we need to achieve as a company, also realizing that the same might be true for the party that we’re negotiating with.”

#3: Forge a personal relationship

Iger: “I’ve done four big deals during the 14 years that I’ve been CEO. Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and then 21st Century Fox. And, in each case, there was a controlling entity or an individual on the other side where all roads essentially, in the negotiation in the deal, led to and ultimately through that person. And so, in each case, it was necessary for me to forge a personal relationship with them in order to either convince them to sell the company that they control or to convince them that we were the right entity to sell to.”

Lesson #6: Creating Brand Value

Iger: “When you create a brand, I think you have to immediately ask yourself the question, ‘When I put that brand name on the product or when I say that brand name to a consumer, what does it convey? What are the specific values, the specific features, the specific brand attributes that that consumer immediately thinks about or feels or wants when they hear that name?’ So when I -- if I had an ice cream company and I put my name on a container of the ice cream, I want the consumer who sees that name on the ice cream container to immediately know something about the ice cream they’re either about to buy or they’re about to eat.”

#1: Branding is important for the price value-propositions to your prospects

Iger: “In today’s world the consumer’s making many, many choices. How to spend their time, how to spend their money. In many cases, because there’s so much product out there, just the decision about what to do next, what to spend money on next, needs to be made very quickly. And, what a brand can convey is, in a sense, what a product is so a consumer has the ability to decide quickly whether they want to spend time or money on that trusting that in doing so they’re going to derive value from that transaction.”

Nick Kolenda refers to this process in his teachings on “conceptual fluency” (see “how to persuade your husband to do what you want”). 

Bob Iger believes that a strong brand is something that creates almost a chemical reaction in someone as soon as they hear that brand’s name (e.g. the feeling of childlike nostalgia one might feel when hearing the name “Disney”).

#2: Do your best to make your brand an “evergreen brand”

Iger watched the Cinderella movie that was created by Disney when he was only four years old. And, his kids watched that same movie. And, his grandkids watched that same movie.

And, they all enjoyed it. That’s an evergreen brand.

#3: Keeping your brand relevant 

Iger: “In many respects, a brand is a very, very careful balance between legacy or heritage and innovation.”

In our fast-paced and fast-changing world, for a brand to stay healthy it needs to stay relevant.

Yet, the mantra of “any publicity is good publicity” is only good advice if you care about relevancy over reputation.

For example, Iger notes that the world has gotten “edgier” with many of its depictions of violence, language, or sex. And that, to remain relevant, the Disney brand could also become edgier with its storytelling.

But, Iger says himself:

Iger: “That would have been a huge mistake for Disney to do. That would have meant actually distancing ourselves from the core brand values in order to be relevant. But, in the end, we’d end up with a brand that didn’t look anything like the brand that was created in the first place.”

#4: Respect your brand, and avoid revering it

“...Disney’s brand needs to be respected but not revered. And, there’s a big difference. If you revere something then you work hard to protect it so that it stays the same...and there’s no modern external force on it that changes in any way. If you respect a brand versus revere it, then you’re considering all the reasons why it was valuable in the first place. But, you’re doing so in a way that brings those qualities, those values forward, but enables it to change and be relevant in a world that is substantially different than the world that existed when the brand was created.”

#5: Maximizing your brand across businesses

Iger’s process:

  1. Tell a story in one medium (e.g. a Disney film).
  2. Create value from that story (e.g. a Disney princess film encouraging female empowerment).
  3. Carry that story into another medium (e.g. a theme park—Disneyland or Disney World).

Using this approach, Disney has been able to become a collection of high-quality brands:

*Note: This data provided by Bob Iger in his MasterClass is from 2019 and may be outdated.

#6: How to manage your brand

Iger: “The most important thing in terms of maximizing brand value or managing a brand is, first, to completely understand the essence of the brand.”

“What does Bob mean by ‘the essence of the brand?’ Well, he’s talking about the attributes of your brand that evoke specific feelings in the consumer and signal certain values. If a consumer aligns with your values and recognizes you as ‘one of us,’ your brand becomes a shorthand for those values in the marketplace. (Think of the way Disney unites generations by balancing novelty and nostalgia, or how Whole Foods aligns itself with wellness-obsessed consumers by highlighting organic and natural products.) Consumers, faced with myriad decisions each day, are able to cut through the noise by recognizing your brand and sticking with your product. They form an opinion about you once, and as long as you don’t betray that trust, their familiarity with the brand simplifies their decision-making process. 

So what are your brand’s values—and what makes your brand valuable to customers? Now would be the time to pace around your living room with a dry-erase marker between your teeth and a blank whiteboard in front of you.” 

Here are some sample ideas that could be on your list of brand values:

  • Commitment to sustainability and the environment 
  • Integrity and transparency 
  • An insistence on simplicity and efficiency 
  • A casual, fun sense of accessibility 
  • Interconnectedness—the feeling of welcoming consumers into a community 
  • An emphasis on progress, on providing a cutting-edge product

And, “Once you’ve got a robust list going, ask yourself: Does every product under your brand umbrella embody these values?”

Lesson #7: Expanding Your Brand (Marvel Acquisition Case Study)

#1: Bob’s advice

  1. When acquiring another company, consider the brand impact (e.g. Disney’s board initially felt that Marvel’s use of violence would detract from the Disney brand).
  2. Lean into the brand’s consumers (e.g. Marvel has a large and enthusiastic fan base).
  3. Protect the brand value of the company you acquire (e.g. upon buying Marvel, Disney became the creator, marketer, and distributor for as many things Marvel as possible to protect the brand throughout creation, distribution, and consumption).
  4. Learn how they do things and improve upon them.

Lesson #8: Anticipating What Consumers Want

#1: Trust your gut instinct

Iger: “One of the most interesting and perhaps challenging aspects of creative storytelling is that you’re often giving consumers what they want before they actually know they want it.”

“When Bob made the case for green-lighting both Captain Marvel and Black Panther to the Marvel team in New York, there was some trepidation. Hesitancy surrounding the making of the films was, as Bob describes, rooted in the belief that they wouldn’t bring in the same caliber of revenue (re: Black Panther, some skeptics felt that a superhero movie headlined by black actors would underperform internationally; as for Captain Marvel, they pointed to examples of female-led superhero movies from other studios that had bombed). Even though fans had been clamoring for increased diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, there wasn’t any precedent to suggest that straying from the tried-and-true template would be lucrative. The Marvel team in New York pushed for a hard pass. Bob overruled that decision. 

Cut to February 2018, and Black Panther is blowing up. Not only is the movie a feat of incisive storytelling—boasting a Best Picture nom at the Academy Awards and perhaps the most heralded villain in the MCU—it also became the MCU’s highest-grossing movie outside of the Avengers films. Black Panther’s runaway success goes to show that sometimes the play-it-safe approach isn’t always the best approach. A year later, Captain Marvel grossed more than $1 billion dollars worldwide. Creating products that reinforce the core values of the brand while deviating from prior patterns to reflect the world we actually live in—that’s an on-ramp to steady profits.” 

#2: The limitations of data

Iger: “I think there’s a real value of understanding a marketplace. Collecting data about that marketplace in order to determine what story you tell or how you tell a story, to me, is a waste of time. I don’t think you ever learn enough from data about what a marketplace would want in terms of a story or how a marketplace might even react to a story. That decision needs to be based more on a gut instinct and on a confidence level you may have in the creative entity that’s telling the story. So, I’m not a big believer in doing research that in any way leads to an answer to the question, ‘What does an audience want?’”

“The Black Panther example further demonstrates the tenuous value of cold, hard data. Data can be immensely valuable, but it shouldn’t be the only thing guiding your decisions—especially if you’re in a field as unpredictable as Bob’s. To reiterate his statement from the start of this chapter: Much of what you’re doing as a leader in business is predicting what an audience will want. Data can tell you what audiences wanted yesterday, and that’s generally a reliable predictor of what they’ll want tomorrow. It can even tell you what audiences think they want today. Data can be a large or small part of your decision-making process, but instinct has a critical role to play, too. 

And, instinct doesn’t flourish in a vacuum.”

#3: How you can collect data effectively

Iger believes that research done before bringing a product to the marketplace doesn’t do much good. And, he mentions that that pre-research doesn’t create a roadmap or result in a positive in terms of what you create or how you create it.

Instead, Iger believes that “the collection of data needs to be complemented by a collection of real-time experience”.

Iger: “One way that I like collecting information the most is experience. I like traveling the world. I like interacting with consumers as much as possible to get a better understanding of the marketplace and of consumers in general.”

As Iger often says, “If you don’t go [out into your market physically], you can’t grow.”

Lesson #9: The Importance of Risk-Taking

Iger: “I happen to believe that in businesses that are changing so fast in a world that is just ripe with disruption and the unknown can sometimes outweigh the knowns, if you try to maintain the status quo, you’re likely going to experience more failure than success...Status quo is a losing strategy [in a dynamic marketplace].”

#1: Fail while daring greatly (embrace a learner’s mindset)

Iger: “Anything that is new and different is risky but necessary.”

“Consider Bob’s anecdote about Cop Rock, a 1990 ABC musical police drama that totally bucked the status quo of conventional TV and that also bombed—hard. Bob could have reacted to the show’s failure by wallowing in regret, but instead, he embraced the shot taken as a point of pride. ‘I was always proud of the fact that we had taken such a big risk,’ Bob says, ‘because creativity has inherent risks.’”

#2: Don’t withdraw after failure, get back up

Iger: “I think the worst thing that can happen to anyone who’s managing a creative process is to either withdraw or to get conservative after you’ve had a failure.”

“The way things went with Cop Rock could’ve soured Bob on cop shows entirely. But when Cop Rock creator Steve Bochco pitched Bob another cop show a few years later— one that was dark and gritty and unlike anything TV had ever seen—Bob gave it the go-ahead. He was greenlighting NYPD Blue, a procedural that became one of ABC’s longest-running shows. Why? Well, in part because the show was risky and stood out from the pack.”

Giving the green light on NYPD Blue was Iger’s way of getting back up after failure and continuing to embrace a growth mindset by taking another big risk.

#3: Take risks strategically -- do your homework

Iger: “I like taking big risks, in part because I believe that that’s the surest way to success in a world that is so dynamic. That said, I don’t believe in taking risks at any cost. Obviously, there’s a level of responsibility that you have to exercise when you make a decision and when you take a risk.”

Do not take risks impulsively. Practice thoughtfulness and use facts and data. 

Do your homework to know the potential for value-creation and value-destruction with each risk.

#4: Bob’s advice

  1. Anything that is new and different is risky, but critical to success.
  2. Weigh the pros and cons of each risk (e.g. Bob Iger and Steve Jobs made a pros and cons list on a whiteboard when weighing the risk of buying Pixar).
  3. Learn from your failures, but don’t let them control you.

Lesson #10: Navigating Complex Deals (21st Century Fox Case Study)

#1: The bidding war strategy

Iger (representing Disney) concluded a deal with 21st Century Fox in December of 2017. But, Comcast topped Disney immediately after.

And, so began the bidding war. 

Here was Iger’s strategy as he shares it:

Iger: “We knew that topping them [back] was inevitable because we wanted these businesses and we thought they had real value long term for the company. The question that arose was, ‘When we top them, how high should we go, and is there a way to increase our bid that will discourage them from increasing their bid yet again?’” 

Iger: “A number of people in our process actually advised that we not increase our bid significantly—that we move up in smaller increments. And, I came up with the idea of bidding significantly higher because I thought it was the best way to cause Comcast to fold its tent-- to ultimately cease bidding. I thought if we went up in small increments that it would be easy for them to go up in small increments as well, and we’d face the potential of a continuing battle upward, which would not only take time, but could ultimately cost us more money...And we [also] had discussions with the US Justice Department at the time about possibly fast-tracking their approval of our acquisition because, in doing so, I believed it would give us yet another advantage over Comcast who, perhaps, would not have the ability to achieve regulatory approval as quickly. And, the combination of the two-- the [significantly] increased bid and the ability to get from the US Justice Department an agreement about approval of the acquisition going forward-- was highly discouraging to Comcast and led them to cease bidding…”

#2: Bob’s advice

  1. Get deep in the weeds to evaluate assets.
  2. Think outside the box.
  3. Manage the stress of acquisitions with your team.
  4. Prepare yourself for all possible outcomes when taking big risks.
  5. Restructuring can be good for your company.

Lesson #11: Managing Industry Disruption (Disney Plus Case Study)

“Remember Blockbuster? Didn’t think so. In 2008, the CEO of Blockbuster—the now-bankrupt video-rental company—said, ‘Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition.’ 

We all know how that one turned out. 

No matter what industry you’re in, chances are there’s room for improvement (unless you invented sliced bread or something). And where there’s room for improvement, there’s always the potential for disruption.”

Iger: “It’s incredibly important for anyone in the business to have a foot in the present and have a foot in the future.”

“Disruption is inevitable, so you’d better be prepared to fight fire with fire. As a first line of defense, Bob emphasizes the need to have one foot in the future, meaning you should always be iterating on your brand or company. Your goal is to suss out impending change as far ahead of time as possible. Your job is to be a futurist. Balance your focus between addressing the present needs of the market while also assessing what that market will look like years from now.”

#2: Bob’s advice

  1. Be in the present while leading into the future.
  2. Embrace disruption and don’t be afraid to disrupt yourself.
  3. Change is inevitable. Be at the forefront.

Lesson #12: Tenets for Success

Lesson #13: Conclusion

“Bold business leadership, as Bob describes it, requires integrity, humility, and self-assurance in the face of both triumph and failure. As you chart a course for boundless success in your business, keep in mind the principles Bob lists out: the importance of fostering character traits like curiosity, candor, and optimism; the ability to set your ego aside when coming to the negotiating table; a readiness to evolve and foresee the future needs of consumers. Internalize everything you’ve learned in this class, and you’ll find yourself primed to lead in your industry.”


  • At times, misses opportunities to go deeper

When communicating the new strategic priorities to the entire Disney company, Iger mentions that they basically ran an internal communications campaign to get the word out to every branch.

He did his best to meet with many of the individual locations so he could articulate the strategy face-to-face. And, connected with media outlets such as ABC News and ESPN to spread the word even faster.

Yet, what exactly he said and the words he used to articulate the new strategy are left out. 

And, that’s important information to dig deeper on because, as a CEO and boss, Iger could easily have taken a “power-over” approach—ignoring the thoughts and feelings of the heads of those Disney locations.

So, describing how to “pull” instead of “push” and use power-through instead of power-over when communicating a company-wide change would have been a very valuable addition here given that this is a course on business leadership.

  • Leaves relationship-building lessons out of the negotiation section

Iger’s expedient negotiation style can feel abrasive and rushed to those unfamiliar with it or those who prefer discussions that are more slow-paced in nature.

Still, Iger has seen much success with that negotiation style because he has and builds personal relationships with his negotiation partners. And, he recommends his students do the same.

Unfortunately, Iger leaves out the “how” of building those close relationships.


  • Case studies are very insightful

For me, getting an inside look at how some of the biggest deals were made for a company I feel like I grew up with (that’s now valued at over $169 billion dollars) inspired more than curiosity and awe. It was motivational.

And, I believe it’s a valuable addition to the course, and especially so for those driven individuals looking to be the next big mogul in their space.

  • Intelligently encourages an antifragile ego

Iger says, “I like to learn, after the fact, whether a decision was right or wrong. So that, if it’s wrong, the mistake isn't made again or, if it’s right, you know, so that we make the right decisions again. But, second-guessing decisions is not something that I like doing and it’s not something that I encourage other people to do.”

That willingness to learn after the fact is a good sign of a learner's mindset.

And, the added bit about avoiding second-guessing decisions is something I really enjoyed hearing his take on.


Certainly an enjoyable Masterclass. 

Was hoping for more in terms of value and learning opportunity, but the inside look at how former Disney CEO Bob Iger negotiated some of the biggest Disney deals in the company’s existence was very insightful.

There are better resources out there for learning business leadership, so this isn’t the course I’d recommend to a friend who’s looking to learn everything they need to know. I'd probably recommend some of Ray Dalio's work first (see Principles).

But, it’s worth playing in the background throughout the day (like an audiobook) if one wants an overview of business leadership from a businessman who knows what he’s talking about.

Thank you for this, Ali!

Added it to the reviews.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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