RSOG Leadership in Action

Brave New World


Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar

CEO of Primeworks Studios Sdn Bhd


When: 4 November 2019

Where: Razak School of Government

Guest Speaker: Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar


The framework of the Session 

There’s a saying that goes, “experience in the best teacher”. Those with experience appear to have an added edge, especially in a competitive environment. Both public and private sectors have invested considerably to create prospects for people to gain new experiences, such as through educational opportunities abroad, exchange programmes, cross-fertilisation, and secondments. These opportunities, amongst others, are expected to broaden one’s horizon, increase appreciation to contrasting perspectives, and enhance ability to come up with new ideas. Is the conventional wisdom of gaining experience still relevant in this new world where things change at lighting pace? In certain industries, customers’ preferences shift way faster than an organisation could react. How can leaders respond to such pace and intensity? What kind of mindset and skill set is required to relentlessly think of new ideas that could ensure the organisation is always ahead of the curve. These are some of the potential focus areas that Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar who is known for producing something new, exciting, and different will discuss in this session.


Key Takeaways from the Session

While being humble about his roots, the Guest Speaker acknowledged the various challenges faced in his early years in the music production industry. According to EMI Malaysia during its bid to acquire Positive Tone, of which where the Guest Speaker was working at that time, the reason given was because “You’re different”. Positive Tone stood out from other music production companies as it had a different range or music artists’, thus creating a new segment of alternative/indie music through the likes of bands such as OAG, Too Phat, Ruffedge and Innuendo among others. This beginning paved the way for his successful journey going beyond music, and into new adventures like television, film and movies.


Calling it the “moshpit”, the Guest Speaker explained that this strategy is meant to manoeuvre your product over time in relation to the changing industry and market trends. The typical record industry infrastructure will change in tandem with the aspirations of the masses. This is why customer experience is key to exceeding your customers’ expectations. Brands have to be accurate, dependable, and provide the service they guaranteed. The opportunity and sustainability lies in the ability to deliver what is promised and surprise the customers with extra care and support.


The successful organisations invariably have the best people at all levels. High performance organisations are experts at hiring, developing, and motivating their people. People play a vital role in most operation systems and processes, and are deeply influenced by the work environment they are in. The Guest Speaker acknowledges there is a clear linkage between how an organisation treats its people and the organisation’s profitability. The ripple effect of a people-centric culture enables an organisation to reach its full potential. This very culture allowed the Guest Speaker to establish 8TV alongside Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB), an innovative television channel which became number one in its segment (2003-2010). This was followed with another digital initiative, Tonton, which was Malaysia’s first and largest home grown video streaming portal.


While eagerly sharing his journey through stories, the Guest Speaker imparted his words of wisdom facing a brave new world:

  • It’s not Engagement, it’s Empowerment: The right people are the most important asset. Connectivity, originality, courage and gut instinct is what should be driving us all.
  • It’s not a Job, it’s a Mission: Why do we do it, and not what we do. The endgame is for us to be doing something significant. It is not just a product, but a movement. An anthem of a generation.
  • Ideas is great, Ideal is superb, but Ideology changes the world.
  • Innovating in Small Steps (ISS): Do not innovate syok sendiri but innovate in small steps. The law of mass market movement applies, and it is crucial for survival.
  • New Leadership Skills: The old school of though teaches Same Skills (IQ) being in tandem with Different Temperament (EQ). The new school of thought implores the Different Skills (IQ) goes alongside Same Temperament (EQ). This allows speed and success in facing unpredictability.


In essence, organisations big and small face a host of new challenges. The world is becoming more complex and volatile, and these conditions make even short-term decisions difficult. Market and industries move in an even faster pace, hence the need for leaders and people alike to be more resilient and flexible to connect with themselves and restore a sense of purpose.


Key issues raised

  1. Recruit and harness support if you are pressured to be side-lined. Explore the world in order to get new ideas and find meaning in what you do.
  2. The fear of not being able to try new things in life, and not having enough creative ideas concerns us all.
  3. Manage people’s expectations and delight your customers. Customer experience is key to success.
  4. Building a relationship with your superiors is crucial for your advancement. Keep pushing your ideas to eventually become your superior’s trusted advisor.
  5. The Blue Boat Strategy is sometimes necessary to smoothen the creative process.
  6. Subordinates often appear toxic due to misdirected energy. Instead, channel the misdirected energy towards their KPI goals. Lighting the right fire in their hearts will create a better sense of purpose.


About the Speaker

Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar is presently the CEO of Primeworks Studios Sdn Bhd; Malaysia’s leading content company specialising in movies, television programmes, animation and more. Prior to that, he led Media Prima Television Networks. A multi award-winning music producer, arranger, songwriter and musician, Izham’s musical career started with the legendary Positive Tone record label in 1994, producing progressive music that captured the imagination of Malaysia. He is an alumni of Berklee College of Music (1991). He then pursued his MBA at Suffolk University (1994).