Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Innovation + Value

The museum sector would do well to move away from a sense of its own importance to demonstrating the true value it can bring to lives. As cultural networks proliferate, the museum is ideally placed to lead discussion and debate, to create participatory media and develop the role of the active cultural participant.

-- Angelina Russo commenting on Ross Dawson’s blog post, Thinking About the Future of Museums: Fourteen Key Issues, May 22, 2008

This quote really struck me, because it’s where many culturals – not just museums – seem to be stuck. And we’ve been stuck here for a long time, with some noteworthy exceptions. It may have a lot to do with the fact that we excel at great ideas, but drop the ball when it comes to their execution. I relate to that.

The Management Centre recently released an international compilation of studies on innovation in the nonprofit sector. Using a Harvard-developed research model that identifies seven stages of innovation, the compilation finds that many – but not most -- US charities clearly are creative, but falter in rolling new ideas out to audiences. Learning (aka evaluation) from our successes and failures (the last stage of the model) is consistent for just over 50% of US nonprofits. Those numbers are not music to my ears. Are they to yours?

Here are the 7 Stages of Innovation in a nutshell:

1. Ideation: idea generation

2. Integration: cross pollination

3. Information: external sourcing

4. Selection: identifying ideas

5. Support: developing ideas

6. Launch: diffusion and returns

7. Learning: establishing what can be improved

You can read more about them here.

So to come back to Russo’s comment, the museum slice of the nonprofit sector continues to struggle with this notion of its value to 21st century life, or, at the very least, launching it. Ironically, I think we’re in a time when that can be done despite shrinking resources – and perhaps done better than when the funding cup is full. Necessity is the mother of innovation!

Here’s more about Angelina Russo, Associate Professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne:

Angelina Russo researches the connections between museum communication processes, multimedia design and digital content creation. She is Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage research project Engaging with Social Media in Museums which brings together three Australian museums and the Smithsonian Institution to explore the impact of social media on museum learning and communication. Between 2005 and 2008 she led the ARC Linkage (relinquished to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation) research project New Literacy, New Audiences which examined the development of user-generated content in collaboration with six major Australian cultural institutions.

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