2010: the year for a technological framework for culture change

The last post referred to Greg Sandow’s list of changes in classical music in the last decade. I took that opportunity to look at a somewhat abstract concept of culture change:

That is exactly why we need to get rid of the product-driven culture of superiority, elitism and dismissal. The Internet culture, and particularly social media, is the antithesis of those forces. Shift away from risk avoidance and centralized decision making and move toward innovation, competitive thinking, customer service, and competitive pricing.

Over the past months, I’ve seen some projects in the beginning stages that will set the stage for this change. I predict that the year 2010 will be the year in which this change will manifest itself in tangible projects and a technological frame work. Perhaps, somewhat differently, I predict that these tangible projects and technological frames will force an organizational change. Let’s start with a little background.

In early October, 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Diane Ragsdale (read her amazing “Surviving the Culture Change“) and Chris Mackie of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, when they were in Chicago for Project Audience. Reading, tweeting and blogging online about the arts and social media is one thing, but to have such a comprehensive, intelligent discussion about the topic, one that goes beyond explaining what Facebook can mean for an organization, is a completely other thing. Earlier, I had made a short video for the Project Audience meeting. You can find the video here.

Project Audience is exactly one of those projects that will make 2010 the year in which the “change” happens. What is Project Audience? A group of organizations and arts managers committed to working together to develop “collaborative, affordable, sustainable technologies” to get more people involved in the arts. In short, and not quite adequately described, technology for audience development.

The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and spearheaded by several people including Dwight Gee (http://www.takepartinart.org/) and Matt Lehrman (http://www.showup.com/).

The sites mentioned above are mostly calendar portals. Matt Lehrman writes on the discussion board of Project Audience:

On-line events calendars and community arts portals – like those created and run by numerous arts councils, service organizations and other local partnerships – are widely recognized as today’s “state of the art” collaborative strategies for raising the visibility of and increasing participation for the arts and cultural community.

Project Audience is to be the next generation of all-inclusive, community arts portals. How? By crowdsourcing. Andrew Taylor at The Artful Manager describes how “collaboration is a muscle.” The project just finished its initial discussions and is moving into the community design phase. Stay tuned to their Web site for exciting developments.

Then earlier this January, I came across a tweet by Chad Herzog that led me to discover the Audience Engagement Platform (AEP), described as “a ‘one-stop’ service for online audience engagement that builds off of the extraordinary technical advances utilized in the commercial and social sectors.” The AEP is funded by foundations as well. Unfortunately, not a lot of information is currently available, but according to the tweet by Chad Herzog, there might be some collaboration with Project Audience.

Now, hot of the presses, comes an invitation from Drew McManus for arts organizations to help shape the final look of a product called “The Venture Project.” This product is the closest to an actual application and the major difference is that it is a commercial project without foundation funding behind it. Don’t let the commercial tag fool you though, it seems quite affordable.

I had a brief phone call with Drew about the project, but I have not seen or tried the product as of yet. Talking to Drew, it seems to me this project has a lot of potential. Built around WordPress, and with an eye on integrating third-party tools like TicketMaster, iContact, Google Analytics and of course social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, the product aims to replace an organization’s entire Web site (once you realize that, the price tag seems all the more reasonable).

I currently work with Drupal at my work and this blog is built with WordPress. There is so much development surrounding these content management systems, they have become quite the professional power tools, making it easy for multiple staffers to keep content fresh, even without comprehensive coding knowledge, and keep the site customizable.

Of course, many orchestras work with Tessitura, and The Venture Project is not built for that. And this brings me to my last example: the Chicago Symphony. Organizations that large have the capacity to have customized solutions and the things I saw happening when I worked at the CSO were nothing short of amazing. I’m afraid to give away too many details, but keep an eye on the Chicago Symphony’s new Web site. I’m not sure when it is supposed to launch, but rest assured, it will be the industry benchmark. Think about all the things I have discussed above, about integrating tools, and think about the innovations that made companies like Amazon and Netflix a success.

And that’s exactly what I mean when I write about a technological framework that will change organizational culture and even culture itself. 2010 will indeed be the year when these changes take hold.

I think it is suitable to end with a quote from one of the Project Audience participants. Andy Horwitz from the blog Culturebot tells a story of how organizational change and these technological frames work together (emphasis mine):

One organization, which I will leave unnamed, kept popping up for me as a great example of how change occurs not because of the technology but because of the shift of consciousness that occurs when everyone starts to “Think 2.0”. Basically, this organization knew they were facing some major challenges so they organized a technology task force. They brought together stakeholders from every part of the organization from musicians to staff to board members for a series of information sessions on technology. They then invited experts in to educate the team. What happened was that the stakeholders got engaged with the organization in new ways, they became activated and in some ways the DNA of the organization shifted, creating new pathways to participation. Musicians who normally didn’t have a voice in the program or organizational structure began to bring ideas forward, good ideas that were adopted and implemented successfully. The experts that were brought became excited and engaged, and five of them became new board members. Not only that but the six point recommendation plan for adopting new technological approaches was implemented so successfully that the task force became a committee on the board and is now an ongoing part of the life of the organization.

What do you think? Will these technologies force organizational change? Will organizational change create or drive these technologies? Is it a case of the chicken or the egg? And how will they work together?