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

Summary of today's letter: If museums want to provide value to the humans they hope to support, they need to stop behaving as if they're institutions and they need to start acting more like service providers. The MAP Community is developing a program to help museums adopt a service mindset by becoming better listeners.*

Two distinctive mindsets

Museums need to stop behaving and thinking like institutions and need to start acting like service providers if they want to be relevant in the future.

What does that mean?

Let's start with a concrete example of what I mean by institutional thinking — consider institutional hiring practices:

Here's the reference:

The institutional mindset is exemplified in the job requirements.

Institution: "We require a considerable and specific degree of experience, education, and expertise because a) this is how we've always hired people and b) anyone we hire should feel fortunate to accept our offer, even if that offer is the equivalent of $18,867/year USD."

What about the service provider mindset?

Service Provider: "We may need someone with a considerable degree of experience, education, or expertise because we need to provide value to our visitors. Maybe we'll get lucky and poach someone from an adjacent field or someone who has a very different background and skill set than our other employees."

I know these are binary caricatures. I'm being unfair to Institutions and idealizing the Service-Provider mindset to illustrate the difference between these two worldviews.

Why not go even simpler:

  • Institutions: "We're the only game in town."
  • Service Providers: "Look at all the games in town!" (Or: "Wow, there are a lot of games in town. We're just one of many options… Come to think of it, what is a game? Why do people play games? Could we make a new game that no one else in town has thought of? What if we made the town a game? What if…" and so on.)

At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, Here's what the world looks like to service providers:

And here's how institutions see things:

How does an organization move from being an Institution to thinking like a Service Provider?

I don't know that there is a definitive playbook or recipe, but there are characteristics that an institution can cultivate to facilitate the transition.

One of those characteristics is Listening, and it's one that we've been studying in the Museums As Progress (MAP) Community. Service Providers listen to the people they want to support, and they keep listening. They listen to their audiences, they listen to (at least some) non-audiences, they listen to each other (colleagues). Institutions, on the other hand, are more comfortable being heard. (A clue is right there in the word audience — the power dynamic it implies.)

We're hosting an information session at 5pm ET today on a new program we're developing in the MAP Community — the Institutional Pilot Program — that's designed to help organizations develop the Listening skills they'll need to become better service providers.

You can read more about the program and register for today's event here: https://museumprogress.com/institutions

If you can't make it today, you can schedule a call with me to learn more and see if it's a good fit for your museum.

What are some of the other characteristics of a service-centric organization?

Let me know in a reply to this email or leave a comment on this post.



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