Skunk Works: A Place for Innovation

What happens when you try to create something new in your organization? You might be lucky enough to be able to go off in a corner and sprint through the design work without any disturbances. But more likely, you are encumbered by some pesky obstacles otherwise known as policies and procedures. You work tirelessly, are just inches from a reaching a Eureka! moment, only to have one of the following happen: You get thrown out of the conference room because you didn’t sign up for the time slot You get dragged into staff meeting You need … [Read more...]

Bringing People Together to Improve the Place They Love

Before coming to National Arts Strategies, my office was a shady spot under a mango tree in the front yard of my compound in Ati Atovou, Togo.   Days in Ati-Atovou passed mostly in the same manner as they do in my DC neighborhood: people wake, do good work, laugh with the people they love and nourish their bodies with favorite local dishes. When I made the decision to spend over two years in Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was worried that I was turning my back on a career in the arts that I was so passionate about.  What could Togo offer … [Read more...]

Resolve to Take Back Your Time

Photo: Jeff McNeill via flickr

I don’t have time to exercise because I’m too busy.  I can’t spend time with my husband because I’m staying late at work.  I won’t be able to see a doctor until February because I’m never free on Mondays. How many times have you used a version of the above statements? Chances are, you tell yourself or someone else “I don’t have time for that” on a daily basis. My life changed when I decided to stop thinking about my schedule as filled with commitments the universe has shackled me to, but rather as choices I’ve consciously made about how I … [Read more...]

Getting Unstuck: Developing Skills to Climb the Leadership Ladder

photo: inspiredhomefitness via flickr

Many great thinkers in our field have discussed the complexity of talent development and succession planning in the cultural sector. Marc Vogl, who works with arts and culture organizations in his role as Principal of Vogl Consulting, aptly describes the problem as a clogged and leaky pipeline. Basically, there are a small number of leadership positions at the top, often held for many years by the same people (that’s the clogged part) and therefore more junior employees are stuck at their current level, growing increasingly tired of waiting … [Read more...]

The Summit at Sundance

Mt_Timpanogos_s2000

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll feature posts around the final convening of our Chief Executive Program, The Summit at Sundance. We invite readers to participate in an online discussion of four major issues facing the cultural field. In this post, Sunny Widmann introduces the event and the process we’ll use. As with many organizations, National Arts Strategies has a portfolio of programs that carry with them varying degrees of risk and return.  When we know that something’s working well, we can keep it running with the … [Read more...]

Collaboration is key in D.C.

Flag_map_of_Washington_DC

This post appears as part of the ARTSblog Emerging Leaders Blog Salon, in which emerging leaders from around the country were asked, “What would make where you live a better place or bring it to the next level?” I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all. Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national … [Read more...]

Stories from the Field: Measuring Impact

Calipers

Over the past three or four years that I’ve worked in the US cultural sector, I’ve noticed that arts organizations are experimenting with the way that we count.  Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that we are developing more holistic ways of measuring what really counts.  The recent Counting New Beans study challenged theaters to go beyond economic impact or numbers of “butts in seats” to measure the intrinsic value of their work.  Similarly, many organizations are striving to measure intangibles such as attitudinal change or increased … [Read more...]

Salzburg Global Forum: Some Final Thoughts

Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders

We introduced Field Notes as a means of amplifying meaningful conversation. Over the last couple of weeks we put that to the test with content from the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders, a program that was essentially 5 days of non-stop (and I mean that in the best possible sense) conversation among 64 people from 35 different countries. On an individual basis, I learned something from each conversation, each interview, each post. On a collective basis, what I learned was not something new but it was still incredibly valuable … [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...]

Guthrie Theater’s debt to women and diversity

Do nonprofit cultural organizations have a particular responsibility to reach into and represent all parts of the community?  Does the benefit of nonprofit status require us to take more risks than commercial theatre?  A recent article explores the Minneapolis community’s reaction to the lack of diversity in a local theatre’s upcoming season.  While this piece focuses on the choices of one artistic director, other leaders in the field have also argued that not all organizations should feel obligated to be diverse.  On the other hand, leadership … [Read more...]