When we think about most arts organizations, would we use the term “innovative” to describe them? Probably not.
For many organizations, things have been done largely the same way for decades. Sure, there may be some shiny new things like a website or app, but the experience of attending an arts event hasn’t really changed. You purchase a ticket to sit in a dark theater mostly in silence watching something happening on a stage.
I started thinking about this again when I recently read this article on TechCrunch. It talks about how bad decision making at Kodak, generally regarded as “the poster child for an organization that missed the digital boat in order to protect its existing businesses,” undermined innovation.
In short, even though Kodak invented the first digital and DSLR cameras, it ended up going with a store-based kiosk where you could print digital photos because it’s business was built on, you guessed it, printed photos.
One sentence in particular about why the company was left in the dust in terms of digital innovation really hit home for me:
“…it was at least partly because the decision makers wanted to build a digital product in the image of what came before instead of what was coming next.”
The arts and culture industry is so tied to what has come before that it often fails to make any attempt to be relevant at the current time, let alone the future. We see that every day with falling attendance and lower engagement, especially when it comes to the more traditional forms such as opera, ballet, symphony, etc.
I’m not saying that we should alter the product, but, at the risk of sounding redundant, we need to have serious conversations and make serious changes to how people experience the product. We have multiple studies, the most recent was just released a month ago, that tell us why people aren’t attending our events, and yet we make no attempt to address them.
Let us open our minds, be brave, and think big! I don’t have to tell you that, because of the seasonal nature of arts organizations, that it can take time to implement change. Don’t wait to get started because we’re already behind.
Let’s get to work.