Our Finest Hour Season 1, Episode 3: ‘The Hour’
Navigating the response to the late-2014 cyberattack against Sony Pictures required leadership, and executives at the studio showed that quality in spades, according to Eric Iverson, then-SVP and divisional CIO for Sony Pictures Television.
Sony employees turned adversity on its head, using the attack to improve in everything, from how they worked to how they treated each other.
This third entry in Iverson’s ongoing “Our Finest Hour” series of media and entertainment reflections around the current pandemic suggests that the overall lesson learned back then applies just as much today: It’s not the crisis that makes us or defines us, but how we respond.
During our upheaval at Sony, I had the privilege to work with some of the best leaders and teams I’ve ever known.
From the president of television who led the division, to the CIO and many other remarkable leaders inside and outside of Sony. It took a village of remarkable teams to navigate the crisis.
In one particularly defining moment just after the attack, the president of television gathered our leadership team together. He showed us scenes from NASA’s heroic story told in “Apollo 13” … starring Tom Hanks of course.
In one of the clips we saw, our division president made it clear in that moment that this was not going to be a disaster but would in fact prove to be our “finest hour” (measured in weeks of course). We were reminded of what great looks like when faced with adversity and our mindset was set straight right from the start. His tone resonated across the division, was shared across the studio, and would guarantee the destiny of Sony Pictures’ recovery … and he was right.
So then, we got to work. We got focused. We took care of ourselves and our families. We became incredibly innovative. Was it easy? No. Was it possible? Yes. Did we recover? Absolutely. Did we reinvent ourselves better than before? With all certainty. We learned that once we all took care of ourselves and each other, all was possible. We rediscovered the incredible cleverness each of us has inside. We worked very hard, we innovated, we embraced the incredible help given to us. We persevered. We did it together.
We experienced upheaval at Sony. However, the response to the cyberattack by the people of Sony and the amazing broader community who were so helpful, turned this crisis into an opportunity. The attack not only made Sony stronger, it also strengthened the many companies that learned from that crisis (for the full story, you’ll have to join me for drinks in a bar at a socially acceptable future date). While the cyberattack crisis is different than the pandemic we face today, I can tell you for certain one thing that will be the same:
It will not be the crisis that will make us or define us. It will be our response.
The amount of positive accelerated change that occurred during that crisis six years ago was unprecedented and the crisis brought Sony and the entertainment community closer together. For the world at large, well, I would argue that the Sony cyberattack was a wake-up call on how we all needed to protect and manage our information and systems. Ultimately, the world also benefited from the crisis.
I can’t tell you how often I have heard our cyber event referenced as a call to action for change at a conference. For us now we can all learn from this event. If you believed in the experts’ views that a global pandemic was inevitable, then this is another wake-up call for the world. And what we now have on our hands is a colossal opportunity. This opportunity will need all of us. A global village, to lead.
While there were so many important lessons we learned from the Sony experience, one lesson was so simply placed: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
This weekend, April 11th marks the 50th anniversary of the launching of the Apollo 13 mission. Let’s us watch the movie, again. Let’s remember what great looks like in the face of adversity. Let’s use the COVID-19 challenge to its fullest and remember that, “Adversity is preparation for greatness.” — Andy Andrews
Read more: Our Finest Hour S1: E1: ‘The Great Upheaval’ | Our Finest Hour S1: E2: ‘Not My Box of Chocolates!’ | Our Finest Hour S1: E3: ‘The Hour’ | Coming Soon: Our Finest Hour S1: E4: ‘The Colossal Opportunity’
Join the discussion: #ourfinesthour #apollo13 | LinkedIn
Eric Iverson is a global senior technology and business leader with more than 20 years’ experience in the media and entertainment space, including more than 17 years working with Sony Pictures Entertainment, culminating in the role of SVP and divisional CIO for Sony Pictures Television, and more than three years as CIO and CTO of Creative Artists Agency (CAA). He is president and founder of Iverson Consulting, offering advisory services around strategy, innovation, digital transformation and data in the M&E space. [email protected].