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Reading List: Blog Posts

The Reading List Has Moved!

Last fall, we launched Field Notes as a medium to share ideas and lessons from our conversations with cultural leaders and innovative thinkers, and from our experience working in the sector. With the NAS Reading List, we also hope to share lessons from intriguing articles and publications we encounter. Seeing some alignment in these objectives and in the interest of making it easier for you to find ideas from the NAS Team, we’ve decided to put future Reading List posts over at Field Notes. You’ll find them under the topic “Reading List.” We’ll continue to feature Reading List items in our Monthly Digest emails.

See the most recent Reading List Posts at Field Notes »


In Defense of Logic Models

There has been a great deal of conversation, debate (and informational video) around logic models in the past few weeks. Ian David Moss, whose blog post “Creative Placemaking Has an Outcomes Problem” started much of the discussion, wades back into the fray with this incredibly thoughtful response to many of the criticisms levied against what he calls a “tool of tremendous power whose potential is only beginning to be unlocked.”

Read the Huffington Post piece “Ian David Moss: In Defense of Logic Models” »


Putting the community in control of programming

A startup company, Tugg, has an interesting take on allowing the community to “pull-through” programming for movie theaters. The service is still in beta testing so its reach and types of participants are limited for the moment, but it is interesting to imagine where it could go. What could a similar community-driven approach mean for your organization? How would you translate your organization’s role in a community-led model where you are a facilitator rather than the central decision maker?

Tugg, The Social Movie Theater Startup, Uses Crowdsourcing To Choose Which Movies Play At Local Theater.


Is Opera a Sustainable Art Form?

In a recent post on her blog, Jumper, Diane Ragsdale shares an excerpt from her keynote address on the topic, “Is Opera a Sustainable Art Form?” from the Opera Europa conference in February. Referencing Alexey A. Voinov’s Paradoxes of Sustainability, Ragsdale eloquently asks us to consider where our motivations lie and what we are truly trying to save when we preach of a need for sustainability:

“Forest fires naturally occur and burn down portions of ecosystems so that the forest ecosystem as a whole can persist. If we begin to prevent forest fires we damage the forest ecosystem.

And so what, specifically, could this mean for the opera world and the question at hand? Well, if we agree with Voinov and think his ideas could apply to organizational systems and not just natural ones, it means that we should ask ourselves where we may be seeking the “unnatural perpetuation of what might otherwise die”? It means that we need to think very carefully about which level of our ecosystem we are seeking to sustain.”

“Is Opera a Sustainable Art Form? Excerpts form a new keynote…” at Jumper »



Innovation strategy: The Innovator’s Manifesto

Innovation is the hot topic in many arenas: politics, economics, business and not the least, our own cultural field.

Financial Times writer Philip Delves Broughton (former and now part-time journalist, fiction writer and somewhat regretful Harvard MBA) reviews Michael Raynor’s The Innovator’s Manifesto.

The author notes leading thinking on innovation has cleaved (emphasis mine):

On one side are those who embrace the ideas of collaborative consumption and fast failure, who argue that innovators need to experiment with their potential consumers until they find a product or service that succeeds. These are the doers, the tinkerers who see innovation as a kind of performance art, to be done in full public view and modified according to the cheers and jeers of the crowd. On the other side are the strategists, those who still believe in thinking through an innovation before leaping in. Michael Raynor, a management consultant and protégé of Clay Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor, is one of the most articulate and interesting of the strategists.


Raynor writes convincingly that the current enthusiasm for “fast failure” and corporate “cultures of learning” is unrealistic. Corporate pathologies, such as “long memories, the jockeying for position, decision making by consensus”, he writes, lead to “risk aversion and incrementalism”, which make such innovation processes unworkable.

It is much more realistic for companies to strategise their way to innovation by focusing on areas where they might have a disruptive effect and designing processes and teams to exploit them. This requires a high degree of self-awareness and self-criticism.


Books: disruptive influence –


Creativity! Innovation! Right Brain! I’m sorry, am I making you uncomfortable? Or, why we desire but reject creative ideas.

The gents at Freakonomics point to a fascinating study – and paradox:

The irony is that as a society, we’re constantly talking about how much we value creativity. And yet, the study implies that our minds are biased against it because of the very nature of its novelty. Going forward, perhaps it’s not that we need to get better at producing creative ideas, but at learning how to accept them.

Freakonomics » Why We Desire But Reject Creative Ideas

The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas. (original study)


St. Stevens Day, or, How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma

At the risk of piling on the beatification bandwagon, an interesting post from the good folks at Harvard Business Review. The author argues that Jobs solved (Clayton Christensen’s) Innovator’s Dilemma upon returning from the wilderness, citing the radical changes he made at Apple. You know the ending: the case of Jobs and Apple is an excellent illustration of the difficulty, rarity and reward of “solving the dilemma.” I was equally struck, however, by some of the language employed.

He notes (emphasis mine):

Apple talks a lot about its great people. But make no mistake — they are there only in service of the missionIt didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did.

Apple may arguably be an outlier amongst commercial firms in this respect, but I found the treatment of both mission and profit (substitute “sustainability” if you like) interesting in context of deeply embedded assumptions held by many in our field about the “for profit” world. (And vice versa, to be sure)

What do you think? Is Apple a mission-driven organization? Does this enable them to achieve (and/or get away with) things others can’t? Does this affect how Apple is viewed as a corporate citizen? See here for halo view and here for questioning, slightly less breathless view. Ironically, Christensen himself notoriously failed to recognize Apple as a disruptive innovator, asserting the iPhone would only be a sustaining innovation.


Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma – James Allworth – Harvard Business Review.


Bon Jovi and the Pay-What-You-Can Experiment

We recently announced a new pricing model for Business of Arts and Culture seminars in which we will ask organizations to name their own tuition. We decided to embark on an experiment with this model after soliciting input from organizations we serve and quite a bit of investigation into how this model is performing – in the cultural sector and in the greater business world. Just after we announced our pricing experiment, I came across a very interesting new example of the pay-what-you-can experiment: Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ. Bon Jovi takes the model a step further than the cross-subsidization most models rely upon by asking those who can’t afford to pay for their meals in dollars to pay through volunteer service – either in the restaurant or in the community. The community is also giving back: a local Whole Foods has donated ingredients.

Read more about Bon Jovi’s Pay-What-You-Can Eatery in Marshall Heyman’s Wall Street Journal article, then browse some other examples of the model at work:


How does pay-what-you-can affect the perception of value? How might this model impact your organization?


Of mental models and doorknobs

In a rapidly changing environment, examining and recognizing our mental models is essential if we are to shape organizations that have the resilience to adapt to change. This article from Andrew Taylor is an excellent quick read about how prevalent those models may be, even if we are not aware of them.

Of mental models and doorknobs – The Artful Manager.


Public Service, Advocacy and Institutional Transformation

A provocative post by Nina Simon on Musuem 2.0 discussing the role of museums (or any nonprofits, cultural or otherwise) in their community. True public service, she suggests, requires more than mere expansion of outreach services.

I want our museum to be the host for dialogue–not just through panel discussions, but through exhibitions and events and commissions and community experiences that both invite and challenge people to engage with each other around the issues that matter most. And I think that requires us to be an advocacy organization … for the power of art to transform, the power of history to enlighten and the power of a welcoming host to spark new ideas and change.

Museum 2.0: Public Service, Advocacy, and Institutional Transformation