During the banking crisis and its aftermath we have heard and read a great deal about those banks which are 'too big to fail' and about the resulting 'moral hazard'. These debates and this interesting blog in the States http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2009/03/deliberately-unsustainable-business.html set me thinking about the impact of the cultural sector's great reluctance to allow 'failing organisations' to actually fail, leaving space (and funding) for the next big thing. We embrace artistic risk taking (and the right to fail artistically) as essential but do not apply the same thinking to the 'business' that makes the 'art'. possible
A friend of mine was a senior venture capitalist (he has now retired to Italy the lucky devil!) and he made his company and himself a modest fortune investing in start ups and small companies with big ideas. He reckoned that for every 5 investments he made, 1 or 2 would be stars, 1 or 2 would fail and he would lose everything he had invested and 2 would do moderately well. I cannot imagine these kind of success rates being seen as acceptable within a public funding environment.
Do we really want organisations to thrive or are we really happier to have more just survive? Are we willing to see more organisations fail as the price of more organisations being really successful?
Thanks for reading
PS Thanks to Michael Noonan for the sending me the blogpost and for lots of other good ideas!