RSOG Leadership in Action 

The Social Network


Ashwad Ismail


When: 28 March 2019

Where: Razak School of Government 

Guest Speaker: Ashwad Ismail


The framework of the Session 

Arguably, humans have shown an inclination to exchange information as early as seventy millennia ago. It was believed to be in the form of gossip. The huge following that social media enjoys today somewhat confirms the intrinsic motivation that humans have all along. Of course, the advancement in technology provides humans with the opportunity to exchange information far beyond gossip – facilitating education, wealth creation, scientific breakthroughs, and more recently, the multisided platforms for public services such as transport and accommodation. Work-wise, there are numerous instructions, requests, plans, and even appointments to keep track of nowadays. Whilst some form of delegation could help, the volume and pace of information seem to have no limit in sight. How do leaders manage information in this digital age? Are there any skills in particular that leaders can acquire to manage information more effectively? These are some of the potential focus areas that Ashwad Ismail, a renowned journalist in this digital age will discuss in this session.


Key Takeaways from the Session 

Ashwad Ismail contrasted Artificial Intelligence with Human Stupidity in Putrajaya. This could be the headline that would attract readers to find out more about what happened in Putrajaya that led to Ashwad saying so. However, according to the award-winning journalist and newscaster, the number of clicks, the virality of any news, and the importance of an issue are subject to many things. Before an audience from the public and the private sector in Razak School of Government, the Guest Speaker shared his thoughts, revisited some of his experiences, and provided some insights on the impact of social media and how both traditional and new media leads the world of information as the fourth estate.

In any organisation, understanding own strengths and challenges help in crafting the right strategy towards a goal. For the Guest Speaker, the paramount question that needs to be asked is, “what is the reason for existing?” Answering the raison d’être can then ensure the right culture is cultivated towards the shared objective. As a news channel, credibility is important especially in the digital age where consumption of news can be a chaotic exercise. With that, the Guest Speaker’s organisation identified what are the three criteria that they have. They recognised that they are a small entity, in comparison to other existing media in the country. The strength of being small is manifested in how innovative they can be and how agile they are, especially in marking their territory in breaking news.

Being small, innovative, and nimble allows each member of the entity to become leaders in their respective tasks, become project champion, and balance their responsibility as an individual and as a team. While the successes of flat organisations may have its proponents and detractors, the Guest Speaker believes that ideation and implementation process thrive best in a non-hierarchical environment. The structure must allow for distributed opportunities and this would help in eliminating silo-based mentality.

The Guest Speaker also shared that his organisation felt that news or information shared must fall under the spectrum of nation-building, having a wow-factor, and getting the numbers through click-bait headlines. News shared can be a click-bait but has elements of nation-building, or even having all three elements. It is a way for a small organisation, relative to its competitors, to balance end user’s trust and credibility with mass preference. However, the content must be attractive enough to be consumed and news are often the battle between responsible reporting and winning the right numbers. While news and information can be angled into specific perspectives to unleash it into a debate and discussion, the Guest Speaker reaffirms that the role of the media is to coordinate news and information for the audience.

In any social network, understanding the actors involved fosters connectivity and enhances connection created. Therefore, in venturing any social media platforms, understanding the types of audience that populate that platform helps in ensuring the reachability of any news or information shared. For instance, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all cater to different needs and audience, depending on where one is and who one connects with. As an organisation or individual responsible for information dissemination, understanding the audience segment is part of the equation that needs to be considered.

Recently a prominent journalist has cautioned that our world is fast becoming one where everyone is a publisher without an editor. Conversely, another renowned journalist argued 86 years ago that what makes news is having a sense of what is important, what is vital, what has colour and what has a life. Hashtags, click baits, and virality help, but essentially stories of ordinary human beings doing extraordinary things that often attracts attention.

In short, social network is becoming more virtual, thriving at lightning pace and speed, becoming deeper in terms of segmentation, and content is highly localised.  Such shift is expected given the economic and technical advantage that technology can offer. Change in lifestyle of the society and the intense competition for attention also plays a vital role.  Having said so, there are fundamentals that are irreplaceable by technology, namely credibility, trust, and making judgement calls on intricate issues.  Thus, leaders are responsible to create a conducive culture where people are aware of the dynamics of social network in the digital age and have the courage to embrace it positively.



Key issues raised 

  • With all the technologies that exist and continue to improve, humans would always have a choice of what they want to do with it.
  • Relating to the former point, this freedom of choice allows some creativity for the media, especially social media, in utilising the various networks and connectivity this sphere offers. Having multiple sides of stories or angles remains the strength of media and amplifying it through various platforms helps facilitate the amount of reach.
  • Understanding user segmentation is necessary for customising the end-user experience. This requires some investment in technological platforms, such as Google Analytics and Chartbeat, to obtain the data and translating the derived data into meaningful analytical output.



About the Speaker 

Ashwad Ismail is one of the notable brand names since the launch of Astro AWANI in 2007. As a broadcast journalist and newscaster, this Kedahan Gen-Y has witnessed historical events as it unfolds. He became the storyteller of various local and international coverage, from Malaysian political election, revolutions, natural disasters, crises in countries in conflicts to his imprisonment in an Israeli jail. As a journalist, Ashwad brings a new image in news delivery by pioneering Astro AWANI’s signature news product – “Hari Ini 8mlm”. As a result of his journalistic touch and unique news presentation style, he received the Sri Angkasa Award for Best News Award, Best News Coverage, and Special Jury Award in 2011 for his courage to pursue the International Flotilla hazard mission to Gaza in June 2010. He is currently the Senior Assistant Vice President of Astro AWANI.