A newsletter on audience research and development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

(Reading time: 2m, 32s)

Yesterday, I hopped up on John Cleese’s shoulders and wrote about creativity in management. Cleese describes two modes of working — open and closed — and he suggests you need to be in the open mode to uncover new insights.

I think Cleese’s ideas relate to some things List member Carissa Kowalski Dougherty and I have been talking about here and there in recent days.

Here are some of Carissa’s comments (shared with permission):

It's hard to tell a funder (or a VP), if they're not familiar with design thinking processes and the benefits thereof, that you're not quite sure what the end result will be. Bragging to your board about the next bright, shiny object is much easier than bragging to your board about having conversations with people … In what other ways might we help museum leaders / funders make that larger conceptual leap, from solution-first to problem-first, from clearly defined to more ambiguous, from one big splash to many smaller iterations?

Carissa’s comments remind me of several of Cleese’s required ingredients for getting to the open mode of working — especially #3 — which I summarized yesterday this way:

  1. Space to get away from the pressures and demands of your regular life.
  2. Time away from the noise of your day-to-day work activities.
  3. Time (again) to be sure you can stick with a problem and come up with new approaches, not just the first solution that arrives.
  4. Confidence to make mistakes, to pursue illogical paths, and to stray from what may seem “right”.
  5. Humor to move you from the closed to the open mode.

I don’t have a succinct answer as to how one might get decision-makers to buy in to more open or inductive modes of management or research, but in recent days I’ve been wondering if it boils down to risk perception.

Is it riskier to invest time and money in questioning our assumptions and trying new approaches to understanding our audiences or is it riskier to continue with business as usual?

Every individual is going to have a different answer to that question depending on their personality, experience, and context. If you could examine the collective risk perception of decision-makers at an organization, would it help you understand the organization’s appetite for design research? Could it contribute to some larger profile related to change management? Would that profile correlate to any success metrics?

Are you aware of any work being done to answer those questions? If so, please smack the reply button and let me know.

For now, I think I’m nibbling around the edges of Carissa’s question in the research I’m doing this summer.

This week, I launched an initial survey that asks museum leaders what they believe motivates various types of constituents to visit, join their organization, and donate, as well as what sort of research they’ve conducted that might be fueling those beliefs. The survey should help me arrive at better definitions of terms and get a better grasp of decision-makers’ beliefs and mental models.

More on that next week.

Now it’s time for me to wish you well until we talk again.

Think of it this way:

I hope that if I were to ask you on Monday how your weekend went, you would rate it with a score of 8 or higher, as that would signal to me that you would, in fact, recommend your weekend to a friend.

If most of you rate your weekend as being a 5 or 6, God will not get his bonus.

So, please, have a weekend that scores an 8 or higher. Gabriel needs a new pair of shoes.

Thanks for reading,


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