Fearlessness and collaboration: Lessons from the International Women in Digital Media Summit

Screenshot of Arianna Huffington“Failure is the stepping stone to success,” said Arianna Huffington in her keynote on day one of the International Women in Digital Media Summit (iWDMS) yesterday. During and after her presentation, she was extremely gracious, witty and approachable to all of the conference delegates. Everyone I spoke with remarked on how friendly and down to earth she seemed.

Huffington started her presentation with personal life stories and then moved on to tell women how they can overcome their fears and become successful in their professional and entrepreneurial pursuits. “I want to start with the personal stories because that is the part of our lives where we have the most control,” said Huffington. “On the business side, there is more for us to overcome.”

Two of the key themes that she touched on in her keynote were fearlessness and collaboration. These two discussion points were continued in various sessions throughout the day.


In regards to overcoming our fears, Huffington said that “it all starts with our selves.” She referred to her inner voice as the “obnoxious roommate in my head. Women are constantly putting themselves down in ways that not even our worst enemies would do.”

In order to stay positive and overcome fears, Huffington suggests surrounding yourself with “your personal tribe – a group of people who are in your corner and give you unconditional love.”

Huffington described how she often goes on hikes with her tribe to discuss the day’s challenges. “Just like in Vegas, whatever we talk about on the hike, stays on the hike,” she said.

On a particular hike in 2005, she told her friend Laura David about her idea for The Huffington Post. It was from that conversation that Laura and her then husband Larry David (from Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) said that they would invest in her business. “Success or failure, these members of my tribe stand behind me for support,” said Huffington.

Later in the day, Jade Raymond, Managing Director at Ubisoft Toronto also spoke about risk taking without fear. She told the women in the audience to “go big or go home. The biggest risks lead to the biggest rewards. If you’re not trying to do something different or innovative, then why bother?”

Raymond gave an example of a time where she was “all in” to develop a new game called Assassin’s Creed for Ubisoft. She said that she had many sleepless nights leading up to the game launch. But it all paid off because she delivered on what she knew could be a major hit for her company, which had invested a lot into the new game. Assasin’s Creed went on to be a long standing franchise for Ubisoft, generating more than $1 Billion in revenue.

Raymond and the other panellists in the presentation entitled  “The Executive Suite: Women on Top” discussed the risks they took to get where they are today. Lenore Hume, Former Senior Executive at Nelvana (Canada), Disney (USA), and HiT (UK) spoke about travelling to different continents to take chances in new roles, learn about other cultures and understand how others look at content. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” said Hume.


In regards to collaboration, Arianna Huffington said that “people are now consuming news differently. In the world of new journalism, online is the beginning of the conversation. Traditional media needs to learn not to make online the step child.”

She also argued that user participation is the beginning of media and business conversations. “We are moving from the notion of competition (Epoch A) to collaboration and connectivity (Epoch B). We need to bring readers into the conversation and make news more social and actionable, so that people know how they can contribute.”

Huffington believes that the responsibility of media today is to “put a spotlight on what IS working – this inspires emulation. We should honour the people who are doing good things. This is how we’ll ultimately change the world.”

Huffington’s advice for small business owners is “if you can build a business that taps into the Zeitgeist, then you’ll have the wind at your back.” More importantly, she says that “you have to have fun along the way. It’s not all about the destination. Find the leader in the mirror, do a good job and get more sleep.”

On a panel session later in the day entitled “The Evolving Business Model,” Karen Thorne-Stone, President and CEO at the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) spoke about collaboration when working across new media platforms.

“A major shift is happening in regards to collaboration,” said Thorne-Stone. “The most successful projects that we see are the ones where organizations and professionals reach out to others who have experience in a particular area to collaborate, instead of wasting time and resources learning a new skill set. In addition, the projects which consider all of the potential media platforms at once, instead of doing it sequentially are stronger. It’s important to think ahead and look at market demands. Then, design for that demand and you will ultimately be successful.”

Stay tuned for an update on the discussions from day two of the conference.

Image source: Kent Robinson