Masterclass Review: Bob Iger on Business Strategy and Leadership

A couple of months ago, I was gifted a subscription to the online learning platform Masterclass. This platform brings experts in various fields into your home via a series of video lessons on a variety of topics. Learn cooking techniques from Gordon Ramsey, or how to tell a great story with David Sedaris. Anna Wintour will teach you style, or you can learn about tennis from Serena Williams. Tony Hawk’s course on skateboarding just came out. In all, there’s over 80 courses to take.

The first course I completed was “Bob Iger teaches Business Strategy and Leadership.” I had wanted to take this course ever since I first started seeing advertisements for it; I had also recently finished his autobiography, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company . I was interested to see how he would blend his book into a video course.

Syllabus
The course encompasses eleven total lessons, including several case studies:

  • Time Management
  • Focus, Strategies and Priorities
  • Taking Giant Swings: Pixar Case Study
  • The Art of Negotiation
  • Creating Brand Value
  • Expanding Your Brand: Marvel Case Study
  • Anticipating What Consumers Want
  • The Importance of Taking Risks
  • Navigating Complex Deals: 21st Century Fox Case Study
  • Managing Industry Disruption: Disney+ Case Study
  • Tenets For Success

All of the case studies center around a particular acquisition. Notably missing was the Lucasfilm acquisition, which he goes into with great detail in the book.

The Lesson
Most of the core advice and learnings in the lesson are straight from the book version, which isn’t a huge surprise. Lessons range from four to 20 minutes, while the book is 272 pages; he can obviously go into much more detail with that length vs. the lesson. Still, it was good to hear a more direct take-away from an experience vs. the full story. In the book, it’s more of a play-by-play of his life, his business career, and the milestone events that serve as markers. In the lesson, by contrast, the focus is more on the outcome and what we can take from that.

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Most leadership and business advice tends to boil down to similar messages, and this course is no different. What is different is that just about everyone in the world knows about the Walt Disney Company and its brands, and Bob Iger is one of the most visible, well-known CEOs. The milestone events that serve as the case studies, and the drivers of the advice in each lesson, are all things most people know about. Whether it’s acquiring Pixar or Marvel or Lucasfilm, or building a new theme park, or launching a streaming service, these are all things that have happened relatively recently, and very publicly. Most drivers of business courses tend to be a bit lesser known, or happened long ago (i.e. the Williams-Sonoma bread machine case study, or the Tylenol recall). These lessons are all relevant, which helps you to see the point more quickly than with something else.

I think that’s the key. His advice may not be revolutionary, but how his advice is communicated, and the context surrounding it, makes it easier to digest and accept. Relevant real-world examples are important in achieving that stickiness, and these lessons showcase that well.

Overall Impressions
While the book goes into more detail and offers advice and lessons outside the scope of this course, Bob Iger’s Masterclass is still something I would recommend. I found it engaging and will likely refer to my notes often. It also makes me interested in taking more classes from Masterclass.

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