Barry's Blog - August 23, 2007Hi everybody:
"And the beat goes on........................"
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I've had very good feedback about both of the in-depth interviews on the blog this year - the ones with John Kreidler and Nancy Glaze. As nobody else seems to be doing substantive interviews with leaders in our field online, and as I very much enjoy the exercise, I am going to try to expand this facet of the blog. The whole point is to dig deeper than the typical exchange so as to delve into subjects substantively and really explore the ideas in a subject.
So this entire blog is devoted to what I think is really an outstanding interview - with Harvey Seifter - the head of the Creativity Connection - a program of Americans for the Arts - that is attempting to broker relationships between nonprofit arts organizations and corporations wherein the arts organizations bring their art to the corporate environment, targeting specfic business needs of the companies -- from team problem solving to creative thinking approaches to business problems. It is not a new field, but one that remains highly underdeveloped despite the sector's attempts in this area previously. Creaivity Connection is making notable, and I think significant, headway in this important arena (albeit still somewhat slower than impatient people like myself would prefer).
Harvey has provided real, meaningful leadership in this arena. Founder and director of Creativity Connection, Harvey is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities in the field of creativity and arts-based learning for business, and is frequently invited to design learning and leadership development programs for corporations such as AstraZeneca, IBM, Morgan Stanley, and Siemens. His book, LEADERSHIP ENSEMBLE: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World's Only Conductorless Orchestra has been published in seven languages, and he periodically lectures at leading business schools such as Columbia University (where he was on the senior executive faculty 2002-06), the University of Chicago, Hitotsubashi University, Paris VIII, etc.
Harvey is also a classically trained musician who has enjoyed a 20-year career at the helm of distinguished arts organizations including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco's Magic Theater, New York's Theater for the New City, and Flushing Council on Culture & the Arts. In addition to his work with Creativity Connection, he currently serves as Principal Artistic Advisor to the National Music Center and Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.
Here then is the interview. If you find it valuable, please pass on the link to your colleagues, staff, board and others who might appreciate the ideas put forth. Hopefully, this interview like others will stimulate expanded discussion of the ideas contained in it. Thanks.
BARRY: You've been as involved as anyone in the arts in trying to make connections and broker mutually beneficial partnerships between artists and arts organizations and corporations through the Creativity Connection. Describe the program, its origins, and the current status of where those efforts are at this point in time?
HARVEY: The mission of Creativity Connection (a program of Americans for the Arts) is to deepen the relationship between corporations and the arts community by introducing arts-based learning as a resource that can help businesses achieve their core objectives of profitability, return on investment and competitive advantage. In the process, we connect the arts in a vital way to the increasingly important civic conversations underway in many communities about the role played by innovation, workforce development and creativity in meeting the challenges of economic growth in the 21st Century. We also develop new sources of revenue for artists and arts organizations directly, through fees paid by corporations for arts-based learning programs; and indirectly, through relationship-building with corporations and their employees.
Over the past decade, my experiences developing and marketing the Orpheus Process as a learning tool for collaborative management and high performance teamwork, and my growing awareness of outstanding work proceeding on parallel tracks in other artistic disciplines, led me to conclude that arts-based learning in business was poised to emerge as a dynamic field of practice. This was the era when John Kao wrote Jamming, Piers Ibbotson launched Directing Creativity at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Todd Siler Metaphoring art-making workshops became a staple at the World Economic Summit at Davos, I wrote Leadership Ensemble and NHK predicted that arts-based learning for business would become one of the Top 10 Transformative Trends of the 21st Century.
At the same time, if you talked about arts-based learning in business to corporate HR directors, or even to a sophisticated audience of organizational development experts and innovation gurus in 2002, the response was typically bewilderment. The whole idea that artists could be sources of practical learning for business people was too counter intuitive; even far-fetched. I came to believe that for the field to thrive, a convener was required, to create a community of interest, infrastructure, and the critical mass needed to establish awareness and credibility in business.
Creativity Connection (originally developed as a national program by the Arts & Business Council, becoming a program of Americans for the Arts with the merger in January, 2005) we out to fulfill this need through publications notably Arts-Based Learning for Business, a 2005 special edition of the Journal of Business Strategy; research; publicity; panel discussions and symposia; strategic alliances with key partners such as the Entrepreneurs Organization and the Product Development Management Association; and demonstrations across the country of arts-based learning for business in action. While huge amounts of work remain to be done, we've made real progress. Here's an informal measure: not long ago, I opened a presentation to 75 senior business leaders by asking how many had ever participated in an arts-based learning program at their company and nearly a quarter of the room raised their hands. A far cry from the blank stares of incomprehension the same question would have evoked just a few years earlier!
Creativity Connection leverages these efforts to help develop the commercial arts-based learning for business market. We partner with some of the leading American artists and arts organizations that offer learning programs to businesses, providing them with sales, product development and marketing services and support. Artistic disciplines used in these programs include classical music, theater, dance, jazz, poetry, visual art and filmmaking. Over the past two years, these artists have taken their work to dozens of corporations including the McGraw-Hill Companies (which has also been Creativity Connection's lead sponsor since the earliest days of the program), IBM, Right Management, AstraZeneca, Bank of America, T-Mobile, General Dynamics, Wachovia, Chevron, Mastercard, PSE&G and many others. For more information about Creativity Connection artists and their programs, please visit www.creativityconnection.org
Creativity Connection also strives to foster the use of arts-based learning in many related contexts -- smaller companies, professional associations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions (especially business schools), public sector workplaces (including the Federal Management Academies) and by helping Todd Siler develop his Think Like a Genius software to create scalable corporate learning tools on the web.
Finally, Creativity Connection also has a consulting practice that custom designs creativity programs for businesses, helps arts organizations enter (or advance within) the field, and helps local arts organizations find ways to build and benefit from arts-based learning markets in their own communities. The range here is fascinating. For example, we have just completed a feasibility study for the United Performing Arts Fund of Milwaukee that identifies strategies to benefit regional arts and business communities through the development of a sustainable arts-based learning in business market; we are in the final phase of helping ready Liz Lerman Dance Exchanges new creativity, teambuilding and communication for business workshops to market; and we are helping an outstanding young theater in San Diego Moolelo Performing Arts Company develop corporate training programs that draw on their unique inquiry-based developmental process as well as on the stickiness of experiential learning for their effectiveness.
BARRY: What are the trends in negotiations between artists and artist organizations and business and industry? Where are things going and what will the future hold for making those relationships work?
HARVEY: There has always been a fundamental asymmetry in the arts/business relationship. Sustainable partnerships add mutual value, but while itâ€™s pretty clear to everyone how business can add value to the arts, identifying (much less quantifying) the value that the arts can bring to business has always been far less obvious. In recent years, the obscurity of the transaction has been growing at an alarming rate. Why?
A generation ago, corporations tended to see their interests as directly linked to the wellbeing of the communities in which they lived and worked, so they often aligned their grant making accordingly. To the extent that corporate leaders recognized (or could be persuaded) that the arts were an important element in the equation, finding ways to convince them to support the arts was a challenging but relatively straightforward process.
Over the past 25 years, workforce and marketplace globalization and a steady trend favoring competition over cooperation have severely eroded the value that corporations place on community engagement in the traditional sense. Today, corporations significantly limit the extent to which they allow these kinds of tangential considerations to govern their priorities. The result has been a sharp decline of traditional corporate philanthropic support for the arts, partially offset by a far more modest growth of marketing-based arts-related corporate sponsorships.
Today's corporations are much more likely to be focused on the handful of big issues that utterly dominate the business landscape: How can my company innovate quickly and creatively enough to stay ahead of the competition, but cost-effectively enough to satisfy relentless demands for short-term ROI? How can my business recruit and retain a workforce with the skills that are critical to successful performance in today's knowledge and change-based innovation economy? How can we reap the benefits of globalization without being overwhelmed by the distractions and disruptions that are a direct consequence of globalization? How do we convince our customers to design our products for us, on our terms? How can we build the relationships and reputation that will allow us to dominate our markets?
In a sense, the sharp focus on these kinds of problems represents a huge opportunity for the arts, these are, after all, problems caused to some extent by failures of the imagination, and our core competencies (creative thinking, ensemble teamwork, effective communication across cultures, etc.) can significantly contribute to the ability of companies to solve them. What an opportunity to matter!
And, there are many examples of artists and arts organizations that have done just that, coming up with successful strategies to leverage their creative capacities to develop effective partnerships with businesses.
But there is also disturbing evidence that as a field, we aren't doing a very effective job of making the case or acting on it. One of the things that was so striking in the 2006 Conference Board Report Are They Ready to Work was the powerful and deeply damaging disconnect it revealed in corporate America's thinking around this topic while more than 80% of senior executives identified the ability to think creatively as a skill critical to success in today's workforce (and even more thought it would be essential in the future), less than 15% thought that artistic experiences add value to an employees skill set!
The practical implications were brought home powerfully by Americans for the Arts 2006 National Arts Policy Roundtable Report, which linked the 65% inflation-adjusted decline in charitable corporate giving to the arts between 2000 and 2005 directly to the growing alignment of corporate support for the arts with key business needs.
The bottom line is that artists and arts organizations hoping to build partnerships with corporations need to demonstrate the ability to add value by helping them meet the business challenges that most concern them. Unless we take active steps to correct the widespread corporate (mis)perception that artists and arts organizations are unable to do so, the arts are likely to become even more marginal to corporations than they are today.
BARRY: Follow up question: What about globally - is the state of affairs in trying to manage relationships between artists and businesses different on the international stage from the domestic marketplace?
HARVEY: Corporations in most countries never really played the kind of key philanthropic role in arts support played by American companies over the past couple of generations. In pre-1989 continental Europe, corporate support for the arts was virtually unknown; I vividly remember the German theater publication that rejected an article about corporate funding by saying was hat gelt mit kunst zu tun? (what does money have to do with art?); and the difficulty I had even explaining the concept to a graduate level arts management seminar I taught in Paris in the early 1990s! Today, though real progress has been made, especially in the realm of sponsorships, corporate support for the arts remains a very underdeveloped sector.
Asia too has only a limited tradition of corporate philanthropic support for the arts. On the other hand Japan, to a lesser extent Korea, and increasingly China have robust highly transactional markets for arts-related sponsorships. While specific partnership prospects wax and wane with shifts in the regional economy (these are all extremely market-driven), corporate arts sponsorship is strongly imbedded in the system; companies see these as contributing positively to their image and reputation.
The use of arts-based learning to in business is not an American phenomenon in any sense. A great deal of the pioneering work was done in the United Kingdom (Arts & Business UK launched its Creative Development initiative back in the late 1990s); lively markets also exist in a number of other countries, notably Australia, Canada, South Africa and, to a lesser degree, Scandinavia.
Overall, artists and arts organizations around the world often find themselves in weak positions in their relationships with businesses, at least compared with their American colleagues so they have nowhere to go but up! They are likely to be helped by the same trends that are hurting American arts organizations,, as American corporations seek to establish local legitimacy and resonance for their increasingly pervasive global footprints by creating new international arts partnerships.
In view of the inherently international nature of art, and the growing dominance of global market forces in business, it seems pretty clear that the most dynamic set of future possibilities to grow the field of arts/business partnerships lies in developing a truly international platform to foster and promote them.
BARRY: What erroneous assumption do the arts continue to make in their attempts to garner business and corporate support? What mistakes are the arts making in their attempts to build meaningful relationships with businesses?
HARVEY: Two stand out:
-- Arts organizations often convince themselves that they understand enough about the objectives and decision-making processes of business to enable them to frame a compelling case for partnership, if only they can find the right way to broadcast their message. Corporate decision-making is far more complex that arts organizations tend to recognize. In my experience, this is almost never true. Arts organizations need to learn to listen very carefully to the market. The broader their understanding of the full range of business objectives in play, the more like they are to garner corporate support.
-- Many arts organizations still relate to corporations from a model of corporate philanthropy and civic engagement that has been in decline for nearly a generation. Others, believing that traditional corporate philanthropy is dead focus all of their attention on trying to secure marketing-driven sponsorships. Both approaches miss the point and the opportunity. Corporate philanthropy is far from dead. It is, however, more strategic than at any time in history individual giving decisions are increasingly made in the context of overall philanthropic goals, which are increasingly driven by the need to align with business objectives and re-enforce corporate strategies. Arts organizations should look to the interplay and synergies between these two areas, rather than viewing them as either/or portals.
BARRY: What is your advice to arts organizations that want to cultivate successful business partnerships?
HARVEY: Though all successful partnerships are built on the mutual expectation of added value, arts organizations often know little about the key issues and concerns that shape the corporations with whom they hope to partner, or guide the decision-making of the executives with whom they hope to negotiate these partnerships. The odds of success increase dramatically when arts organizations come to understand the value proposition from the standpoint of their prospective partners. Of course, exploring vast, complex, unfamiliar and sometimes intimidating corporate worlds requires time and energy, but for arts organizations determined to cultivate successful business partnerships, the initial investment is essential.
It's also important for arts organizations to fully and accurately identify what they do and don't bring to the table. Honest self-assessment is always challenging, but arts organizations are far more likely to succeed in cultivating successful business partnerships when they understand what they have to offer and how they are likely to be perceived by potential business partners.
The relationship between these elements is the centerpiece of an overall strategic approach to the development of arts/business partnerships, which can be pictured as a Venn Diagram, where represents the value that a particular corporation strives to add through its arts partnerships (whether it knows it or not!), represents the set of specific opportunities that a particular arts organization can bring to its business partnerships, and the intersection represents the value proposition as seen from the business perspective.
The existence of a robust intersection suggests a fruitful basis to pursue the relationship, because the arts organization has the potential to add value to the corporation, from the corporation's perspective. The content of the intersection defines key elements that the arts organization can leverage to make the sale.
It's important for arts organizations to keep in mind that large companies typically pursue multiple agendas, with overlapping centers of power vying for influence and control over internal resources and agendas. The more dimensions of the corporate reality that an arts organization can effectively engage (in other words, the more contained in the intersection), the greater number of internal corporate constituents and power centers will become stakeholders in the development of the relationship. An arts/business partnership may center on marketing and branding opportunities, but if the partnership is structured to also engage product development, innovation, HR, leadership development, social responsibility, etc., it will develop deep roots (and pockets!) within the company.
It's also important for arts organizations to look realistically and self-critically at the Venn Diagram intersections to make sure they really are what they purport to be value propositions from the perspective of business.
Finally, there's the other side of the value proposition what's in it for the arts organization? What are the opportunities beyond the direct financial support that typically drives these partnerships? What about opportunity costs and operational implications? Are there ways to build the relationship out, either internally or externally, to create opportunities for sustainability and growth? These types of concerns are often afterthoughts (if they are thought of at all), but they shouldn't be. Arts organizations that look carefully at their own side of the value proposition are far more likely to create business relationships that serve their long term strategic objectives.
BARRY: Does the business community understand, on the same level the arts understand, the concept of "creativity", and is it still useful to use creativity as a context to frame the discussion between the two communities?
HARVEY: We live in an era when creativity is perhaps the most sought-after attribute of leadership. Corporations all over the world are obsessed with finding ways to unleash the creative potential of their organizations, and influential writers from Tom Friedman to Howard Gardiner celebrate creativity as the one indispensable quality required for our society to progress and flourish in the in the coming decades.
Why wouldn't we want to use creativity as a context to frame our discussions?
As long as the most urgent challenge facing the arts remains finding ways to break out of the narrow silo we find ourselves in (which I believe to be the case), the worldwide focus on creativity is a spectacular opportunity, giving us a powerful new tool to engage the world around us. And though we are obviously not the exclusive repository of creative capital, it doesn't take a great deal of analysis to recognize that artistic enterprises represent highly concentrated sources of creative skills, insights and experiences.
But, some caution applies. While the connection between innovation and creativity is widely understood (Innovation is creativity that ships, as Bill Gates famously put it), the arts have become so thoroughly ghettoized in American life that surveys of business leaders show an almost total disconnect between how they view creativity (central to their concerns) and how they view the arts (largely irrelevant). Leveraging the "creativity case" to help the arts break out of our silos remains something of a chicken-and-egg problem, and we will need to devote a great deal of attention and resources over a period of years, if we hope to significantly improve our position.
And the fact that leading institutions embrace the concept of creativity in the abstract does not necessarily mean that they are ready for the adaptive reality required to fully tap into the creative potential of their workforces. (Needless to say, arts organizations themselves are hardly immune to this tension!).
BARRY: If you had a million dollars to put into one single project that would advance what you have been trying to do, what would that project be?
The greatest challenge we face is proving that arts-based learning actually provides businesses with the kinds of specific and tangible benefits that justify the cost on an ROI basis. Unfortunately, at present, very little such proof exists.
Of course, we have a lot of evidence and at least some of it is quantitative documenting the effectiveness of strategies that employ the arts in the service of non-artistic learning and behavioral outcomes in K-12 education and to a lesser degree in areas ranging from civic engagement, conflict resolution and international bridge-building to therapeutic interventions in clinical settings.
If you believe (as I do) that arts-based learning in business is best understood as a subset of a much broader field let's call it arts-based learning in life then its not a huge leap to hypothesize a relationship between these kinds of experiences and the outcomes of arts-based learning in business. But like any hypothesis, this one needs testing, and we haven't yet connected the dots convincingly, much less conducted rigorous outcomes-based research. Until we do, data drawn from these realms is unlikely to convince skeptical corporate decision-makers.
We also have some limited qualitative data specific to arts-based learning in business; a few valuable case studies (the best of these is probably the five year assessment of Unilevers Catalyst Program, (Re)Educating for Leadership: How the Arts Can Improve Business by Ted Buswick, Alastair Creamer, and Mary Pinard, published in 2004 by Arts & Business UK); a much larger number of testimonials from corporate leaders; and a great deal of informal information regarding companies that it use arts-based learning on a repeated basis. We need to greatly expand this base of information and opinion by mapping the field, and publishing a series of case studies detailing outcomes and illustrating best practices.
But while studies linking the proven value of arts-based learning in other environments to business, and the development of better qualitative data are both important parts of the research picture, the key to achieving broad corporate acceptance of arts-based learning (and to unlocking corporate budgets) is solid quantitative research, conclusively demonstrating that arts-based learning can help businesses meet their most important organizational training and development objectives something that doesn't currently exist. We need to change that situation.
Of course, there are huge obstacles, ranging from the inherent limitation of quantitative assessments of creativity to the presence of vast numbers of unpredictable external variables that confuse the picture. In fact, many of the key outcomes of arts-based learning may be inherently unquantifiable, or impossibly difficult and expensive to quantify in a business environment. But that doesn't mean that all of them are and we must not let the challenges become an excuse for inaction. We need to carefully analyze the possibilities, pick the targets we believe are most likely to yield productive results, develop our research strategies, and go!
For example, we need proof to back our claim that arts-based learning can help innovation teams create more successful products (which in turn increases corporate return on the development investment). Of course, we have case studies of companies that have used arts-based learning as a tool to achieve that outcome, and testimonials from key executives who see the cause-effect linkage, but that doesn't carry the same weight as hard numbers for corporate decision-makers.
Taking the new product development process as a whole, hard numbers will be very hard to develop. But researching the impact of arts-based learning on the component elements of the NPD process might not be so daunting. Can we prove that arts-based learning teaches corporate innovators key skills that improve their performance (and consequently the companies ROI) by (for example) increasing their capacity to surface new ideas, or strengthening their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities? Can we prove that arts-based learning changes employee behavior in ways that improves team function by fostering productive collaboration or improving intercultural communication? Can we compare the outcomes and ROI of an innovation team that systematically integrates arts-based learning into its culture with those of another such team in the same company that does not?
Finding hard data to answer these questions is where we need to focus our energies, and where I would invest the million dollars. From the perspective of a funder considering the investment, the potential ROI in terms of increased earned revenues for artists and arts organizations, strengthened corporate and employee engagement with the arts (and with specific arts organizations), and enhanced understanding of the value of the arts to society's productive capacity has profoundly important implications for the nonprofit arts sector.
BARRY: Which business leaders and / or companies impress you most and why? Which ones "get" what we're trying to sell?
HARVEY: I admire Harold G. (Terry) McGraw III, the Chairman and CEO of McGraw-Hill Companies, a business leader who understands the value of the arts on a deep level. Under his leadership, McGraw-Hill has made a deep and sustained philanthropic commitment while pioneering the use of arts-based learning for workforce development purposes. Mr. McGraw's explanation is direct and compelling he sees both philanthropic and learning-oriented engagement with the arts as "part of the overall strategy and commitment of the corporation to help surface creativity because the arts provide a wonderful opportunity for the personal and professional growth of our employees (From a 2006 Journal of Business Strategy interview I conducted with Mr. McGraw).
I'm also deeply impressed by AG Lafley, the Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble, a leader with a highly original approach to corporate innovation, designed to tap into the creative thinking of a diverse global network of 1.5 million innovators by learning how to collaborate across organizational boundaries, geographic borders and cultural barriers. This strategy has been rewarded by an innovation success rate that's doubled, driving P & G's costs down and its profits up.
But if I had to single out one company that sets the standard for corporate creativity in our time, it would probably be Google, which has found a way to motivate, scale and integrate into a corporate structure the kinds of disruptive thinking, creative problem-solving and high performance teamwork that are characteristic of the world's great artistic ensembles. Google calls innovative thinkers who care equally about doing great work and developing a culture that's great for all our employees its most important resource. From the outside, at least, that appears to be true, which I'm sure has a great deal to do with the company's extraordinary track record.
BARRY: How are you leveraging the successes to facilitate even more access into the business world?
HARVEY: Ted Buswick and I have just been invited to guest edit a second special edition of the Journal of Business Strategy, which will come out in the fall of 2008. The publication will feature case studies detailing successful arts/business partnerships clustered broadly around the role of the arts in fostering corporate innovation, focusing on cutting edge applications of arts-based learning such as helping businesses adapt to the potentially disruptive impact of open source and wiki competitors; close their innovation deficits by fostering the soft skills that are increasingly defined as critical to the success of new product development processes; etc.
This will give us a new and powerful platform from which we can leverage past successes to create future opportunities.
We are also planning linked partnership initiatives with the Conference Board, leading graduate schools of business across the country, the National Science Foundation, the Entrepreneurs Organization, Product Development Management Association, and the Banff Center (among others) to expand our capacity to strengthen and promote the field.
BARRY: As someone who has been involved in the arts long term, wearing many hats over the years, what do you think ought to be the priorities the arts focus on in the next year? Where should we expend the most energy and / or money? And why?
1. Practical projects that help broaden and deepen our engagement with the private sector, because the private sector provides the vast majority of our funding. We haven't been doing too well there in recent years. The implications of not reversing this trend are dire, and the only way we are likely to reverse it is through connectivity breaking out of the narrow silos we find ourselves in and finding new ways to matter.
2. Finding ways to think and act more globally in our work. Globalization and its consequences represent the central force of our times, but even though the arts are uniquely adapted to crossing barriers, lack of funding for international work, preoccupation with survival/maintenance issues, and (in some cases) an America-centric view of the world, threaten to cost us what should be a natural leadership role in this arena.
BARRY: Give me two predictions as to developments likely to happen in the nonprofit arts sector in the next 5 years that I can take to the bank as it were?
HARVEY: Looming environmental disaster in general, and global warming in particular, are about to force more changes in society, more quickly, and more universally, than technology, globalization, or anything else on the horizon perhaps more than any other force in modern history. That meaningful change isn't already underway is an impressive demonstration of the human capacity to deny unpleasant realities, but events are forcing our hand and the tipping point for our consciousness is likely to come during the next five years (which includes two presidential election cycles).
What will this mean to the nonprofit arts sector? Undoubtedly, more artists will begin to respond through their work to what will clearly emerge as the great issue of our time. From the standpoint of daily operations, arts organizations will come under increasing scrutiny with respect to their own environmental practices, while the growing shift of philanthropic and corporate resources toward environmental causes and issues will pose an additional competitive challenge in the funding arena. On the other hand,, the arts have the capacity to play a uniquely important role in helping our society move beyond denial and toward creative response To the extent this actually happens, the sector will help itself by engaging vast numbers of people and institutions who are presently indifferent to (or unaware of) its existence.
The only other prediction I can make with absolute confidence is that the world powered by speed, complexity, social interconnectivity and by the global marketplace will grow even more radically unpredictable than it already is. We can absolutely count on black swans (Nassim Nicholas Talebs name for massive-impact, highly improbable events that lie far beyond the realm of normal expectations, such as 9/11 and the rise of Google) turning everything upside down during the next five years, in ways that we can't possibly predict today though with 20/20 hindsight these transformations will eventually seem to have been inevitable.
Organizations able to synthesize information across disciplines, focus on what might be knowledge, bring a broad generalist's approach to problem-solving, create fluid skill-based hierarchies, improvise constantly and embrace unexpected discoveries will be well positioned to deal with and benefit from the black swans. Organizations unable to do these things are likely to concentrate on what they already know, causing them to miss opportunities and making them especially vulnerable to disruptive change. All the necessary attributes for dealing superbly with black swans can be found in the processes, skills and experiences of artists. Arts organizations whose internal cultures enable them to take advantage of arts-based learning will benefit greatly.
BARRY: The NEA funding seems (relatively) solid and trending upward. The federal support of the arts is on the right track. The problem in the sector is at the state and local levels - where there is widely disparate support, and where growth is often, at best, holding the line. The arts on this level are about "surviving" rather than "thriving". Do you agree or disagree with those statements? What can be done?
HARVEY: Federal support for the arts is heading in the right direction, it's just that we'd all like to see it get there faster! The sector is very focused on the NEA and, to a lesser extent the Department of Education naturally enough, since these are the primary funding streams. But many of the growth opportunities in federal funding over the next few years will lie elsewhere, in agencies where the arts represent tools able to help achieve government policy or accomplish management objectives. Increased funding for cultural diplomacy through the State Department and the integration of arts-based learning into the Office of Personnel Management's executive development academies are two examples of promising directions, and the leadership that Americans for the Arts is exercising in integrating these kinds of forward-thinking strategies into its overall federal advocacy agenda is an enormously positive and important development.
The picture at the state and local levels is a good deal less encouraging; in many cases, the need for growth is urgent while the sector is forced to concentrate its energies in fighting further cuts. One (though by no means the only) answer is to use the same kinds of fresh strategies and approaches to help lift gridlocked state and local level conversations about the role of the public sector in supporting the arts onto more productive ground. Here too, Americans for the Arts is exercising vital leadership and creating important opportunities for the sector through its partnerships with the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Lieutenant Governors Association, National Association of Counties, US Conference of Mayors and the League of Cities. Since the states are often viewed by Congress as laboratories of democracy, over time, innovative state-level initiatives that use the nonprofit arts sector to accomplish important government objectives may well exercise a ripple effect on the national conversation.
BARRY: Wow - great interview. Thank you Harvey.
BITS & PIECES:
I'm off to China for a month a couple of weeks. Meeting with some arts leaders in Shanghai and Beijing as part of the trip and will hopefully have some observations to report. Will try to post another blog before I leave, because I've been a little lazy this summer and I've built up a lot of content I want to share with you before the end of the year, including a recap of the aftermath of the Youth in the Arts Report and efforts to get arts organizations to move in this area; the Year End HESSENIUS GROUP recap and predictions for next year; some thoughts on Board Retreats, and at least one more interview that I think you will find stimulating and even provocative.
As California now has a budget (finally - and no, no great changes to arts funding), the state legislature can turn some attention to pending reform legislation in the heath care coverage area - which is of keen interest to nonprofits, working artists and all of us really. This month's second Barry's Blog at CCI (Center for Cultural Innovation) that focuses on issues important to artists, deals with this pending legislation. Click here: www.cciarts.org/blog/
Have a great weekend.