AMA Conference – what’s changing in organisations?

evolutionI enjoyed this year’s AMA conference a lot. I thought the debates were timely, speakers excellent and I caught up with colleagues I hadn’t seen for a while as well as meeting really interesting new people. I just wished that there were more colleagues from beyond marketing and audience development to share the experience…

From my perspective the highlights were:

Diane Ragsdale from the Andrew J Mellon Foundation – her excellent keynote combined inspirational ideas, practical actions, real examples and references for further reading. My takeaway is let’s move from being powerful gatekeepers to enthusiastic brokers.

An organisation that is already doing this is Watershed in Bristol, Dick Penny from there spoke about how he considers them  to be custodians of a shared culutral space and sees Watershed’s  role as bringing people togather around ideas that matter to them.

The urgent need for cultural organisations to change to keep pace with the changing world around us was a constant theme. This was brough to life by Cornerhouse in Manchester, whose experiment in adopting an open source way of working is inspired by Charles Leadbeater’s We Think. we-thinkStill very much a work in progress,  Dave Moutrey and Sarah Perks shared the organisational changes they have made, which include merging their programming and marketing teams.

It is always a pleasure (and an enjoyable intellectual challenge) to listen to or read John Holden’s work, and his AMA appearance talking about the value of culture was no different. He eloquently outlined how our conceptions of art and culture have shifted  from simply ‘high’ and ‘low’  to ‘publicly funded’ ‘commercial’ and ‘home made’  – and what impacts this has had on how we organise and communicate about culture. Like Diane, he referenced Bill Ivey’s Arts Inc, which I’ve not read, but am about to track down…  Questions included a lively discussion on the role of ACE funding policies in shaping how we  value culture. The John thought I’m taking away is that people’s value of culture is, of course, subjective, and we need to help them to create their value through a relationship of mutual respect between organisations, artists and audiences.

Finally, and I’m sure  a big hit with most delegates, Dan Germain from the legendary Innocent shared the  now apocryphal story of how the company was founded and the principles that guide the way it works. Very entertaining, with totally relevant and practical things we can use in our own organisations:

  • Know what you stand for – live your values
  • Have a regular AGM (A Grown Up Meeting) – meet your customers, to talk to them and listen to them

and my favourite….

  • Limit updates to 1 minute at team meetings

If you were there, what did you think?

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