Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 07, 2008


Hello everyone.

"And the beat goes on............................"


I've been feeling out of it lately. I don't text, I don't have a MySpace or Facebook Page and don't haunt those sites. I don't own an iPhone, Blackberry or even an iPod. I'm hardly on the cutting edge of new technology. I'm not up on what is hip and what isn't anymore (and the word "hip" probably isn't anymore), and couldn't tell you the names of any of the top 25 singles on the Billboard Charts (and that from someone who use to be in the music business, and who had always prided himself on being on the very cutting edge of the music industry). For the last couple of years I haven't even seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture by the time the Oscars are handed out. I use to be a night person, but now I go to bed so early that I have seen the first half of dozens of tv crime dramas, but have no idea how any of them ended because I am asleep before they are over. Alas I can no longer lay any claim to having any proximity whatsoever to the trend-setter, taste maker intelligentsia. I am, I suppose, growing older, less relevant and even somewhat a fuddy-duddy (for the younger readers that means I'm old fashioned).

What worries and scares me is that I am probably not alone. Though I would hope not, I suspect there are lots of people just like me out there in our sector - many leading our organizations. It's not that those like me are stupid or that we can't think analytically and make informed, intelligent choices; it's not that we don't make good decisions; it's not that we don't have insights; it's not that we don't have much to offer; it's that our generational disconnect may handicap us in guiding our organizations through contemporary rough waters and cause us to make our decisions absent a whole frame of reference of what is going on in huge segments of the marketplace. Or minimally that we marginalize certain data, fail to give due consideration to certain input and otherwise base our decision making on rather limited information. Pride may make us think that we somehow retain a monopoly on access to relevant data, and that might be, I suggest, a dangerous and costly conceit.

Doubtless past generations have been isolated too, but I think the pace, scope and depth of change in today's world, makes it absolutely critical that those of us in older generations somehow figure out how to have a constant flow of new information on which to base both our practical and policy deliberative processes and decision making. And I wonder if that is the case. Based on the findings of Focus Group sessions (composed largely of young Millennials) that I recently concluded for a Phase II of the Youth Involvement in the Arts Project being done for the Hewlett Foundation (to be published in January 2009), I think not. And that worries and concerns me.

I think both the culture and structure of our organizational models, coupled with our own myopia, biases and prejudices (all of which I think are perfectly understandable and even normal - though perhaps not defensible) are costing us in terms of how quickly we adopt new approaches to what we do -- everything from fund raising to audience development to addressing artist disconnects with the sector. I know that there are numerous, serious attempts to insure that we hear younger voices and that we reach out to be inclusive of all relevant input as we make our case for our value, seek to put bodies in audience seats, and be competitive in the wider marketplace. We do have an extraordinary wealth of younger generational talent and insight within our ranks, but I fear we may not be taking full advantage of this asset to the extent we might (and ought to). Of course, this generalization can't be taken as somehow universally applicable -- I know, full well, that it is not. But to the extent it is true, how can we change that fact.

Then again, maybe I am so far out of it that I just don't see and appreciate that some clarion call on my part is simply misplaced. But we should, I contend, all ask ourselves if we aren't just a little too much stuck in our own generational past perspectives.

I hope you all have a great week. Get whatever is on your "To Do" LIST done soon, because in a couple of weeks, the holidays start, and America begins to just shut down until the end of the first week in January. I think I will go buy an iPhone, iPod, GPS, take in a movie and hang out with some twenty somethings. Maybe I'll learn something.

Don't Quit.