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

Last week, I wrote to you about how some readers have been bringing the ideas I share in this newsletter to their colleagues in various ways. There are a number of ways we might do that.

  • We could take a writer-roundtable approach, which would give you all more time to meet with each other and discuss a particular newsletter theme and how it might work (or not) within your organization.
  • We could take a more workshoppy-approach and work through a few exercises together. (This is more like what I’m going to write about today.)
  • Or we could take a featured-reader approach. I can imagine inviting one reader (or a few readers from the same organization) to share in a very informal way what they’ve taken from this newsletter and tell the story of what succeeded and what failed and all the obstacles they’ve encountered on the way. In return, event participants might brainstorm next steps for our featured reader.

If you have another suggestion, or any of those strike you as particularly interesting, please let me know in a reply. I would appreciate it very much.

Starting with a safe bet: The $100 Test

Last year, I wrote about the $100 Test, which is basically a forced ranking exercise that can help us get a clearer view of what people actually value among a given set of choices. People are given an imaginary $100 and are asked to “spend” the money across a set of options. I described it as an alternative to the riskier approach that many museum folks take when trying to understand the preferences of their audiences — for example asking in a survey or focus group, “Would you buy this?”

This was one of those letters that seemed to stick with readers. Over the next several months, I heard back from a few people who had taken the idea (and it is not my idea) and tried to implement it at their organizations in some very creative ways.

Given that some people have already tried this out, it seems like a good bet that some of you might like to participate in a reader event to explore the exercise, and how it can be used in museums, in greater depth.

So, I’m making a $100 Test lab, and you’re invited.

We’re headed pretty deep into the solution space.

I know. The $100 Test is not a problem-space research method. We’re going off course here a bit, but I think it’s for the greater good, ok?

Longtime readers will recognize this “Research Playing Field” illustration that I’ve been drawing and redrawing for at least a year now:

The $100 Test lives deep in the right-side of the field. Let me break that down a bit more:

  • The $100 Test is inside the Solution Space. That is, it is focused on the organization’s offerings today — existing solutions.
  • It is an evaluative research tool. (As we’ll cover in the lab materials, it could nudge more into the generative space if you combine the exercise with other research methods, which is why I put it on the cusp between evaluative and generative… Let’s save all that for the lab.)
  • Put another way, the $100 Test is not in the problem space — Meaning, it isn’t trying to uncover people’s purposes or life goals. It starts with the assumption (which isn’t always bad) that the organization’s existing solutions have some value for some people.

(Credit where due: I found Indi Young’s diagram of research methods a month or two after I started plotting research methods on top of soccer fields and basketball courts. I’ve borrowed from Indi’s diagram since then, especially in dividing up the solution space into two parts, rather than just one. I’m still attached to the playing field metaphor, though.)

When, where, and how

I’m structuring the lab materials so that people can access and move through it at their own pace. I have a self-imposed deadline of March 24th to open it up for community members. Then, sometime in April, we’ll host a get-together to discuss and explore variations on the exercise; I hope to have one or two readers attend so that they can share what they learned in trying the exercise out at their museums.

The lab content will be available to all paid newsletter subscribers and MAP community members, as will the post-lab meetup.

I should have another update on this first reader assembly in a week or so.

As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts, or you can share your feedback here.



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