If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more - Shinseki

This is one of my favourite change quotes, partly because it comes from someone charged with one of the hardest jobs in change management I can think of - remaking the US Army after the Cold War.   It also goes to the heart of one of my objections to the word 'sustainable' - the suggestion of permanence - the belief that once an organisation finds a winning business model all it has to do is stay with it.  This myth has been exploded repeatedly, think of British shipbuilding, motorcycle and car manufacturing, consumer electronics etc etc, but it persists.

Good business models work, in part at least, because they are in tune with their times; when the times change they must change or die.  (For a great and readable example, see Lou Gerstner's book on the IBM turnaround Who says elephants can't dance?).  

We are, commentators mostly agree, somewhere between 5 and 10 years into a possibly 50 year Information Revolution; a revolution at least as powerful and disruptive as the Industrial Revolution but packed into a much tighter timescale.

Interestingly enough, while many artists have embraced this technology to make work in wonderful new ways, arts organisations have been slow to take advantage of the benefits of the new technology in their businesses, as the AmbITion programme found (http://www.getambition.com/).  I would like to encourage visual arts organisations to explore how the new technologies can be used to give them a crucial component in successful business models -  relevant, accurate and timely information - in cost efficient and effective ways.  Accounting software is boring (and I say that as an accountant) but it can, if correctly configured, give organisations crucial information about the real cost of different activities allowing for informed decision making rather than inspired guesswork.  Other solutions can help visual arts organisations meet one of their greatest business challenges - a lack of knowledge about their customers.  For example, http://www.hi-arts.co.uk/audiencebase - a free audience development tool (thanks to David Brownlee of Audiences UK for the information).

Change is neither good nor bad - it is how we respond to it that matters.

And I will finish this post with another quote from the late Peter Drucker.  During my research, many of those I have spoken to have characterised the visual arts as entrepreneurial; I wonder if this quote rings true 'The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.'

Thanks for reading


PS If you have not yet seen Mark Robinson's work on Adaptive Resilience - do so - its great stuff. His blog is here http://thinkingpractice.blogspot.com/ and Arts Council England published his work here http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/making-adaptive-resilience-real/ under a creative commons licence (hurrah!)