Building Communities, Building the Field

At NAS, we have seen many examples of what happens when arts and culture works to create positive change in the social, economic and cultural well-being of communities in the US and around the world. This work has been going on for many years, and now is coalescing in the range of approaches and attitudes as creative placemaking – a field of imaginative ideas, committed practice and dedicated practitioners. In many communities, webs of organizations and individuals work in this way, integrated into the heart/soul of their neighborhoods, … [Read more...]

Evaluating to Increase Impact

Photo by Jori Ketten

Evaluation appeals to my intense curiosity to figure out how and why things work and don’t work. Many high performing organizations that I have come to know generally use a combination of formal and informal evaluation to build learning loops towards increasing strategic success. That is, they hire experts to increase internal knowledge and staff capabilities and to work with them on particularly complex inquiries, where it is critical to understand the elements on which a program will fail or succeed. And, they look to their staffs to … [Read more...]

Cleaning Out Our Closets


Recently I was cleaning my closet and came across several  items that no longer fit well or had long  since gone out of style – yes, I am either “that old” or styles change rapidly, take your pick.  I wondered why I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of those clothes.  I am an organized and reasoned person so what was holding me back? And then I began to wonder if programs are like clothes in our closets, which was a great distraction because it kept me from dealing with the problem at hand.  But think about it: we buy things that reflect who … [Read more...]

Deal Making 2.0: A Guide to Complex Negotiations

"Deal Making 2.0: A Guide to Complex Negotiations" David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius Harvard Business Review, November 2012 Negotiations can be like puzzles – with pieces that fit together in one way to achieve a coherent image. I think of them as coalition building where the sequence and psychology is important but there may be several ways to achieve a positive end result. In this HBR article, the authors lay out a sequence of events to manage complex and even historically difficult negotiations using as an example the Pacific Maritime … [Read more...]

Stories from the Field: LA Stage Alliance

LA Stage Alliance

What if you had online access 24/7 to information on over half of the households in your region, including demographic, psychographic and buying trends? What changes might you make to your programs, to your marketing efforts or to your partnerships because you had access to such data? If you live in LA County, this scenario is a reality. I recently sat down with Terence McFarland, CEO of LA Stage Alliance, to discuss the Arts Census project, a research project to better understand the region’s arts audience market. I was struck by two … [Read more...]

Is crisis necessary for change?

Don't panic!

While it can be invigorating to hear stories of how organizations overcome crisis, we started to wonder: why does crisis tend to be such a common motivator for change? What implications might a crisis have on the changes effected, and how might that crisis affect an organization in the short and long term? In this post, Gail Crider and Sunny Widmann share their experiences and ideas about how crisis impacts change, for better or worse.   Sometimes, but it’s risky. By Gail Crider Crisis generally means loss of strategic perspective, … [Read more...]

Can brainstorming be an effective tool in building a culture of collaboration and innovation?

My teenage son recently asked me during a conversation about brainstorming, "do we really need rules for everyone to follow?" I had just finished reading Jonah Lehrer’s "Groupthink" in The New Yorker and recalled his remark, "The fatal misconception behind brainstorming is that there is a particular script we should all follow in group interactions." I have been part of many effective brainstorming sessions (at NAS) and just as many nightmarish ones (not at NAS). In my quest to learn more about the dynamics of the process and if there truly … [Read more...]

3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It

This brief article from Scott Anthony, of Innosight and the author of The Little Black Book Of Innovation: How It Works, How to Do It, looks at consumer needs and innovation opportunities. Also mentioned in the article is The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael Raynor. Along with The Innovator's Dilemma by Christensen and Creative People Must Be Stopped by David A. Owens, these are wonderful books to have read and on your innovation reference shelf. 3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It » … [Read more...]

Outcome vs Process Oriented Thinking

Recently, I had cause to dig through some research on outcome vs process based thinking and decision making. The research is primarily in consumer behavior; however, it has a broader application. It provides another way of thinking about or classifying communication styles. And, it gives us an opportunity to examine our own thought processes and ways of communicating. So, for those of us who are still trying to figure out why we get option stress or move quickly to decisions that appear to our staff and/or board as unexpected leaps, I offer … [Read more...]


I have a tall stack of books at home, all of which I am in the process of reading (yes, I am one of those people). I choose to start and stop a book based on topic and sometimes the number of pages and size of type. Recently, I picked up one of the books in my stack – Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (the founders of 37 Signals who brought us Basecamp, Ruby on the Rails, and Backpack). This book encapsulates about five times its volume in management theory and it is fun to read. I read it cover to cover in a very short span … [Read more...]