Point of View

March 29, 2010, 2:59 pm
Filed under: About the Center

On March 4 & 5, 2010 a five-person Adrienne Arsht Center team of senior management attended the National Arts Strategies’ (NAS) presentation of “Leading Innovation” through their Business of Arts and Culture program in Washington D.C.  The team lead by John Richard, President and CEO, included Suzanna Valdez, Vice President of Advancement, Andrew Goldberg, Vice President of Marketing, Liz Wallace, Senior Programming Director and John Burnett, Vice President of Finance and CFO.  Attendance at the seminar was fully funded by NAS through the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fidelity Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.  Other organizations attending included:  Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center of the University of Maryland, The Juilliard School’s department of Vocal Arts, Smithsonian Institution, and Hyde Park Art Center.  The Seminar was lead by Professor David Owens of the Vanderbilt University’s Graduate School of Management.  Professor Owens teaches graduate-level business courses in strategic management and innovation and is a former product designer and design engineer at IDEO, a premier global product engineering firm specializing in innovative thinking.

The seminar took the view that an innovation strategy should be a fundamental component of an arts organization’s overall strategy.  The aim was to help the organization’s leadership understand how the corporate environment and process for innovation affect artistic and strategic goals and how these factors both enable and constrain organizational success. 

The seminar started with a look at what is meant by innovation and an overview of a model to help an organization be intentionally innovative.  This included a general model of a process of innovation.  To further our understanding of how the innovation process works, we then looked at constraints that are inherent in the process.  These constraints include individual, group, organizational and external constraints.  An individual’s personal characteristics can be a help or hindrance in the creative process.  Group dynamics can also play a supportive or constraining role in the innovation process.  Emotion and culture can constrain a group’s willingness to generate, assess and improve its ideas.  The very act of organizing can cause organizations to excel at innovation or be systematically constrained in their efforts.  Group and organizational dynamics support and limit innovation.  Innovation is also affected by sector-level factors such as resources availability, competition and labor relations.  Also, national culture, demographic changes, societal mores and the political landscape can impact innovative efforts.  We concluded with a review of sector-level and societal dynamics that are critical to the arts and culture sector.

Innovation takes place within a complex organizational context, but it can be analyzed and understood through a structured framework.  The context for innovation can thus be improved upon by leaders to expand on organization’s core capabilities for management and program innovation.  A structured process for innovation can create a systematic ability to generate new ideas, identify the best ones and effectively put these innovations into action.

The Adrienne Arsht Center team truly enjoyed and was energized by the exercises and discussions at the conference.  Part of the team got to talk with Professor Owens while waiting for their plane home to warm Miami.  As John Burnett said “Dave Owens is really remarkable.  His energy and passion made “Leading Innovation” substantial and real. The case studies included corporate environments, and the way the discussion was structured made these cases relevant and incredibly applicable. The curriculum respected our industry.” The Adrienne Arsht Center team came back from Washington eager to use the process on numerous projects including the ongoing strategic plan, back-office enhancement plans and various marketing and fundraising initiatives.


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