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Forum: The CTAM Summit: A Matter of Control

They say that actors have a recurring nightmare about beingon stage with no clue what their lines are. For students, it's showing up for a finalexam without ever having opened a book.

And now, we have the cable-industry version, with the youngexecutive staring at an office-building directory, late for work and unable to rememberthe name of his or her employer.

With mergers and consolidation taking place almost daily;with technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, and consumer demand increasing withit; and with deep-pocketed competitors looking more and more like they're in for thelong haul, these are fast-paced, turbulent times. To some, they might even seem like a baddream.

But for most of us, these are times of great opportunity.Despite the current turgid nature of the marketplace, many of us realize that theeconomics of our business remain very favorable.

Change is now simply another variable to be managed. It isnot in any way, shape or form a limiting element.

And how do we manage change? We manage it by controllingit. We use innovative thinking, boundless energy and creative problem-solving to turnanother person's uncertainty into our competitive advantage.

Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who will be afeatured speaker at the CTAM Marketing Summit this week in Chicago, wrote in one of herrecent books, "Successful innovations are led by people who are comfortable withambiguity."

"Comfortable with ambiguity" -- what a wonderfulline, and what a laudable human trait. If we can instill in ourselves the confidence tobecome comfortable with the inevitable changes that occur in business, we will be wayahead of the game.

And it is possible to do just that. By improving our jobskills and learning the industry better, we will become an asset to any company thatemploys us, or to any professional situation to which we apply ourselves.

By improving our professional skills, we will be able totake evolving technology and heightened consumer demand and turn them into strategicweapons.

We can also gain control by becoming a student of theindustry. It is not enough to merely know where our company is headed: We also have toknow where the industry is headed. What does digital mean to us? What implication doesOpenCable have on the way that we do business? These are the types of questions that wemust regularly ask ourselves. And not only should we ask the questions, but we shouldactively seek the answers, as well.

As the industry heads to Chicago this week for the CTAMSummit, change will be in the air.

The heads of two major cable networks will cross paths, onecoming and one going. The strategic realignment of cable systems across the country willcontinue, including further consolidation in a number of markets throughout the Midwest.And, as was the case last week, another major announcement could be right around thecorner.

For these reasons and more, the theme of the CTAM Summit,"From Chaos to Control," will have a special significance for those inattendance. And while many may come to the conference with a backdrop of change in theirlives, CTAM will offer them a recipe for control. After all, one-half of the battle ingaining control of a situation is simply understanding it. It's called perspective. Agood captain doesn't steer a ship without constantly studying the horizon.

This year's Summit will help the industry to gaincontrol by offering the perspective of visionary business gurus and innovative industryleaders, coupled with the tactical, hands-on workshops that have helped to define CTAM asthe industry's marketing educator.

Whether it's Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Peter Chernintalking about the empire-building that his company has embarked upon; StarbucksCoffee's Howard Schultz offering his perspective on the essential bond that mustexist between management and staff; or Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Scott McNealydetailing the network of the future, this year's general-session speakers promise toresonate with attendees.

The marketing sessions will cover such broad industryissues as the state of digital, telephony and high-speed Internet access, while theworkshops will cover things as topical and diverse as redesigning a Web site, achievingloyalty and breakthrough promotions.

As always, the "CTAM Master Courses" will providesenior executives with an intensive, afternoon-long education on a number of topics,including brand consumption, time management, competitive strategies and digitaltechnology.

It all adds up to a sound investment in professionaldevelopment -- one that will pay off for your company many times over.

We urge you to look at the current environment with thesame level of excitement that we do.

Do not go gently into that good marketplace. Take charge ofyour career, and take charge of your company's future. Join us in Chicago as we andthe rest of the industry mine for gold on the road from chaos to control.

We'll see you there.

Ron Cooper is executive vice president, operations forMediaOne, and Carter Maguire is executive vice president, central division for TurnerNetwork Sales. They are the co-chairs of this week's 1998 CTAM Marketing Summit.