Ken Neufeld: Unscripted November 12, 2010

Don’t let your studies get in the way of your education!

I recently returned from four days at school. Now being of a certain age, it’s been a while since I’ve been to school – but the opportunity to spend four days at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business was too great to pass up. The topic was Leadership and Convergence: Navigating Radical Change in Arts and Culture. The program was organized with the Business School and National Arts Strategies in Washington, DC. The participants were 20 arts leaders from some of the largest and most prestigious arts organizations both in the U.S. and in Canada, Hong
Kong and Australia. Representatives included top leaders from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra , Minnesota Orchestra, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Sydney Opera House, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Orange County Performing Arts Center – not a bad group to hang out with for four days!

The days were long and the discussion was at a very high level: What is going on in the world?  How do we adapt what we are doing to meet the requirements of new audiences? Do we have organizational cultures that are innovative enough for the future? The professors at the Business School were well prepared and very skilled, but the real value of the program for me was in the very spirited back and forth, both in the classroom and after class during meals or the very limited social time.

What were the “take-aways?”  Yes,  the world is changing, but the good news is what we do still has value in that changing world. We need to focus on adding value to our experiences, and making our operations simpler for our customers.  And we need to show what we do matters to people on an everyday basis. And we need to be constantly looking for opportunity out of the evolving world in which we live.

Thanks to the Mellon and Kresge Foundations for funding the program and for NAS and the University of Michigan for doing such a great job organizing the program.

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