Arts workers, your tribe just got bigger by a factor of X –
(hint: your best ideas represent X)…
Here’s something that’s not exactly news, but worth proclaiming loudly at this particular moment. Entrepreneurial business – that is, the start-up world, which includes those hip software guys and gals and their innovative counterparts within larger companies – sees itself as more closely aligned to the arts than to traditional business. The arts has friends in high places, not only friends but a tribe of genius-level thought workers – rainmakers and gamechangers who represent the very nexus of the global ideas economy.
Entrepreneurs are striving hard now to do what arts managers have been doing for decades, dealing nimbly and effectively with climates of extreme uncertainty, while making it look way cool. Consultants – whose reputation has arguably been sliding in an era of post-recession budget constraints – are well positioned to reinvent themselves as the scout bees of this new landscape, since we work as both arts managers and entrepreneurs, and sometimes for organizations in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. As we discussed and agreed at the Dance/NYC symposium in February, the sector is not as important as the work itself, and the fact that it is fulfilling its mission and connecting with its intended audience. Now, more than ever, is a great time to mix things up.
Entrepreneurial science has developed specific frameworks to map and describe a reality-based, arts-friendly way of getting things done – one of these is Agile, another (closely related) is Scrum. If more arts workers learn this language, we can communicate better with our extended tribe.
I just returned from a three-day conference at the Microsoft “Nerd” Center in Cambridge– the Agile Games. The experience strengthened my notion that if the arts and the start-up world can just find ways to share respective models and frameworks, connect our discourses and put the right people in touch with each other to improve both sectors’ ways of working, we can fast-track towards – in the words of keynote speaker Michael Sahota – “learning to play and playing to win” in the new ideas economy.
Arts administration and Agile project management form a natural alliance for spotting opportunities within chaos, welcoming change and adding layers of complexity with soul-stirring results. But first, we must look up from our deadlines, recognize other stripes and types of “creatives,” deconstruct our jargon and identify what we’re passionate about. When that “strategic planning” work is done and we’ve identified our next big “wow!,” it is fairly safe to bet (aka project) we can find funders interested in our collaborations.
Many will say we’ve already been doing this. Okay, yes, Agile is very much a description of what arts workers do all the time. However, if we go ahead and learn it – delve into a set of specifics that has been determined to have global relevance – we can carry on with greater intention for the sake of our field and the positive, world-transforming attributes that we have always known art represents.