What Do we Think we’re Doing?
Stories are back in fashion. Marketers and service managers talk about understanding the customer story, Leadership and entrepreneur manuals talk about effective story-telling but what I find interesting is work done on story-telling in organisations, and how we can apply the learning from that to our understanding of the cultural industries, of the relationship between Arts Funders, Arts Managers and Artists
Stories within and Stories Across
The story goes that an effective organisation shares a story from top to bottom. Everybody feels a part of and contributes to a single corporate narrative. When you think about it its the hallmark of any effective group. However, as the research points out, in large organisations within industries stories tend to be shared between organisations at different levels. Senior executives from different banks have more in common with each other than with their employees for example; and cleaners have more in common with each other than with their respective employees. You get the picture.
So for our “Culture Industry” to be effective the same story would need to be shared by people at all levels of the industry. For that to happen we’d all have to agree on the meaning of certain words. So I did some research a year ago to see if this was the case. The results were extraordinary: there was no agreement between The Funders (Government Officials, Arts Councils etc), the Executive Level (Arts Managers and Administrators) and Artists. The graph below was compiled from answers and noted the number of times certain words and concepts were used by each respondent.
Here’s the graph:
So. It would appear that three key sections within our industry are pulling in different directions and do not agree on fundamental concepts that inform the work they are all meant to be engaged in. From a purely organisational point of view that’s a recipe for disaster
The challenge – the real challenge – is how do we align the narratives?