Renowned media professional speaks at YSU

Ben Sherwood presents. Photo by Matthew Sotlar / The Jambar

By Mattew Sotlar / The Jambar

An award-winning media professional spoke at Stambaugh Auditorium on March 11 as part of the Marguerite Thomas Colloquium Lecture series.

Ben Sherwood, journalist and former leader at prominent television companies, discussed the topic of free enterprise.

Sherwood was previously the president of Disney-ABC Television Group from 2010 to 2015. He is also the author of the novel “The Life and Death of Charlie St. Cloud,” which was made into a feature film in 2010.

A self-professed “history buff,” Sherwood began his presentation by highlighting the historical achievements of Youngstown residents, including Ernest Carroll Moore, the co-founder of University of California, Los Angeles; and Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner, the founders of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Isidora Sisic (right) interviewed Ben Sherwood (left) in the Williamson College of Business Administration before his lecture at Stambaugh Auditorium. Photo Courtesy of Aleksa Radenovic

On the topic of perspectives, Sherwood asked the audience to reimagine the iconic painting “American Gothic,” which shows a farmer holding a pitchfork. These differing perspectives, Sherwood said, allow for positive change.

“What is the farmer with a pitchfork?” Sherwood said. “It’s just a dreamer from Youngstown with a motion picture projector, a dreamer in Burbank, California with a mouse. That’s David with a slingshot. Farmers with pitchforks don’t play by the rules. The Warner brothers [and] Walt Disney didn’t play by the established rules.”

In addition to perspectives, Sherwood discussed asymmetric conflict. He provided a graph showing historical conflicts with a power imbalance of 10-1, the weaker side falling under the “unconventional warfare” category.

“In asymmetric unconventional warfare, the weaker side won 63.6% of the time,” Sherwood said. “Outnumbered 10-1, the weaker side didn’t do what was expected. They pursued an unconventional or insurgent strategy and prevailed almost two-thirds of the time.”

Sherwood said strategizing and planning can help people succeed in the real world.

“Strategy and being unexpected and unconventional actually counts more in asymmetric conflict. Just because the odds are stacked against you, you still have a shot at winning if you have a superior strategy,” Sherwood said.

When discussing success, Sherwood said quantity is more important than quality.

“Science tells us that the strongest correlation in the quality of ideas is actually the quantity of ideas. More ideas mean better ideas,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood used Pablo Picasso’s artwork, Albert Einstein’s papers and Thomas Edison’s inventions as examples of quantity over quality.

Curiosity was another topic of Sherwood’s discussion. He asked the audience members to feed their curiosity rather than resist it.

“Curiosity is a discipline,” Sherwood said. “It’s a muscle that you develop and grow. Some people are born curious, other people develop their curiosity.”

Pointing to Walt Disney’s first failed studio and early productions, Sherwood discussed how risk-taking and strategizing can lead to successful outcomes, as they did for Disney.

“You’ve got your curiosity fired up, your self-belief, then what’s the next step?” Sherwood said. “Your belief in your own magic? You’ve got to stop talking, and you’ve got to start doing.”

Sherwood’s speech concluded with a call to action. He asked audience members to make lasting connections, continue to feed their curiosity and to stop talking and start doing.

Following his speech, Sherwood answered questions from YSU students.

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