Challenging Arts Organizations To Shift & Reset

My friends at the National Arts Marketing Partnership (a program of Americans for the Arts) invited me to share some thoughts about Shift & Reset and how arts organizations can better adapt to the challenges of the digital age.  My post appeared earlier this month.

Here is an excerpt:

Given that the public is more engaged than ever before, more capable of collecting and sharing information with a wider audience for free than at any point in our history, we can draw on a larger audience in the shaping and supporting of organizations and innovations than ever before. As a more diverse, interested, and interesting culture emerges, we will have unprecedented opportunities to engage, to drive participation, and to mobilize people to act.

Very few organizations have yet to fully embrace the potential that technology and the Internet have created. There haven’t been many organizations making the kinds of necessary changes, like swapping out their existing talent for fresh perspectives or restructuring their organizations to permanently remove existing silos. Even the largest and most highly regarded organizations are barely scratching the surface of what is possible.

Put another way: everyone is failing at something.

Arts and culture organizations are spending too much time trying to contain and control all facets of these new conversations, but it’s the content of the messages—how they relate to their audience or the ways that an individual or group’s ideas might fit with the rest of the information experience—that really motivates action and drives outcomes. Indeed, it is the individuals—real people, the audience, the community—that have greater potential for influence than any one organization controlling a conversation can even begin to imagine.  Arts and culture organizations aren’t alone in facing these challenges, but they are behind, in many ways, in pursuing real solutions.

My suggestion: focus on supporting and enhancing the interests of your audience, engaging them in the conversations, and listening to what they are saying. I suspect you won’t like everything that you hear. Still, the willingness and ability to meet the needs of individuals who have demonstrated interest will be the litmus tests by which organizations succeed or fail in the future.

Go read the entire post – and let me know if you think the challenges today are different for arts organizations.