All Articles Leadership Strategy Common sense thinking would have rejected "Seinfeld"

Common sense thinking would have rejected “Seinfeld”

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SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring former NBC President Warren Littlefield.

The entertainment business is one that ultimately succeeds or fails based on metrics and money, but the way television shows initially get made is often based on anything but.

For former NBC President Warren Littlefield, whose years at the network included the creation of “Friends,” “Will and Grace” and “ER,” young adults today need to discover what they love, pursue it and not be afraid to go with their gut when it counts. Meanwhile, senior leaders should offer guidance, but err on the side of letting young talent develop.

Littlefield’s message comes from experience and doesn’t discount the troubles young people face in today’s job market. “Finding that passion may take a lot of trial and error, and I’m not naïve about what that’s like, but when it gets you excited, when you feel the blood flow in your body, you know it,” he says.

His twin messages to new and senior employees come together when he discusses the beginnings of “Seinfeld.” The quirky nature of the show, its patterns and tone different from the TV comedy norm, were initially received warmly by NBC executives. ” Then the research came in. … a disaster.  Absolute, unmitigated disaster.  … That research report was so negative that it scared us, and we asked ourselves, ‘Should we let this get away?'”

Instead, the executives trusted their guts — and the comedic judgement of Jerry Seinfeld and show co-creator Larry David — asking only that the show add a female character. One Elaine Benes later, TV history was being made on a weekly basis.

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