The Leader and The Manager: A Leading Innovation in Arts & Culture Conversation

Photo by Olivier Carré-Delisle via Flickr

We’ve just wrapped our first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture. This unique course was created by Dave Owens at Vanderbilt University and customized for the arts and culture sector by National Arts Strategies. This eight-week course, offered on the Coursera platform, brought more than 9,000 artists, arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs from around the world together to discuss the specific constraints to creating good ideas in our field and to build strategies for successful innovation. This … [Read more...]

The Courage to Fail

Photo by Chris Potter via Flickr

Several years ago, while trying to broaden my culinary skill, I had a dear friend over to dinner and I tried a new recipe. I was attempting to make crepes with a small, stainless-steel pan. I’m pretty sure I missed an ingredient in the recipe, the pan was significantly too small to make the delicate, thin crepe, it stuck to the pan and cooked a little too long to make the perfect texture. The crepes ended up rubbery, thick and completely disgusting! My friend, who was a gracious guest, offered that we could grab a bite out instead and call it a … [Read more...]

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...]

Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything (…or does it?)

Will Sherman

  Steve Blank wrote an interesting article in the May Harvard Business Review on “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything.” The lean start-up refers to a methodology (more on that shortly) rather than an organization of a specific structure or size. While its roots are in the technology field, the methodology has interesting implications for arts and culture organizations. This approach focuses on three key things. Rather than crafting an elaborate business plan, entrepreneurs use a conceptual framework known as the business … [Read more...]

Building Cultures of Innovation, Embracing Change and Becoming More Foxy


Editor’s note:  As part of our online discussion around The Summit at Sundance, we have invited participants in The Chief Executive Program to frame each of our problems to solve. Here, Marc Vogl takes on the problem: Develop employees and organizational systems that will transform our organizations and the field. “To expect the unexpected,” said Oscar Wilde, “shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” And yet, it is so much easier said than done. If anticipating plot twists in the third act of a play is the learned skill of the experienced … [Read more...]

The Summit at Sundance


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...]

Shut Up and Take My Money: Fans Should Hire Artists

We've been having some interesting discussions with cultural leaders about the relevance of cultural organizations in their current forms. This article adds some food for thought. Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding sites are becoming platforms for "intermediaries" as well as artists and producers. Individuals are taking on the roles of commissioning, producing, and presenting new work and events. Could your organization's role or model be replaced by a pro-am, freelance model given the new platforms? If not today, are trends pointing towards … [Read more...]

Design Thinking Isn’t a Miracle Cure, but Here’s How It Helps


With that helpful and perhaps needed disclaimer out of the way, writer/designer/consultant Helen Waters pens a lengthy and thought-provoking dissection of what design thinking isn't, what it can't do, clues to why it has been at times oversold...and why it is still well worth considering the real value it provides. And why designers may have long since learned to walk in the opposite direction when some folk use the word. … [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...]

Innovation strategy: The Innovator’s Manifesto

Innovation is the hot topic in many arenas: politics, economics, business and not the least, our own cultural field. Financial Times writer Philip Delves Broughton (former and now part-time journalist, fiction writer and somewhat regretful Harvard MBA) reviews Michael Raynor's The Innovator’s Manifesto. The author notes leading thinking on innovation has cleaved (emphasis mine): On one side are those who embrace the ideas of collaborative consumption and fast failure, who argue that innovators need to experiment with their potential … [Read more...]