While going through my twitter feed today, I came across a report that highlights the opinions of the Next Generation Leader in the arts and relates those opinions with the “innovative-ness” of their organization.
The report, which was not a scientific aggregation of data but rather a generic poll to test the waters, highlights many of the same thoughts I’ve had to the way the arts industry treats its young professionals, and more specifically this generation of young professionals.
We’ve all been hearing how innovation is the key to the future, or how innovation is the root of economic success, and how we all really need to consider major changes in thought and process in order to truly embrace innovation. And I would bet that everyone would agree with those statements…that is if you a young professional in the arts industry. This is just the sentiment expressed in this report released by the folks over at artsfwd.org, a group focused on the next generation of arts leaders. A large majority of those surveyed expressed major concerns on the organizational structure of the arts organization; expressing dissatisfaction with old chains of command, the lack of collaboration between departments, the generic fear of trying absolutely anything new, and the absence of innovation in the workplace – or at least the open channels to innovation.
I don’t know about you, but I agree, and this worries me – at the same time. I’ve noticed these very sentiments across the country when talking to other young professionals and leaders in the arts field. Right here in South Carolina, these are the very reasons South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network (SCYPAN) was founded earlier this year. What I hear from young leaders across the state is that in this industry, the current “leaders” are leaving their greatest asset in the dark – their younger employees.
When innovation is deemed the root of progress, or a necessity for success, this should automatically dictate and trigger a change in the industry. The arts have always been the leaders of progress and innovation, but for some reason this time around it feels different. Many of the “old school” leaders (that doesn’t mean age mind you, there are plenty of innovative leaders of the older generation variety) are scared, I think, that the young professional with their drive to succeed, willingness to forgo the politics of the office and board room for what is right and new, and their overall energy are threatening. You know what though, they’re right. The young arts professional is always on the lookout for environments that bring out their best creative ideas. We’re not the generation of “loyalty to one company”. We can, and will change directions based on the available knowledge and available creative freedom of our current surroundings. Now we’re not looking to move from job to job to job our entire lives, but we are most happy when we can both succeed and fail without reprimand and without judgement. We are the last generation that understands you once had to remember phone numbers, we remember writing letters, we were graded on penmanship, and we even remember cassette tapes. But we’ve also seen ideas flourish from paper to computer in a matter of minutes, companies start in garages and become richer than the US Gov’t, and we understand how new technology has developed over the years. We are one of the few generations that can link the “old school” with the “new school”.
AKA – the “next generation” of leaders aren’t stupid. Our ideas don’t need to be in the dark, left out of the board room or shrugged off every Monday morning. If you embrace the willingness we have to really innovate – and you leave the field wide open for change – we’ll make an impact larger than you’ve ever seen in your organization. So if you think that the new development assistant, or box office manager or receptionist should only speak when spoken to in a meeting – I’m sorry, but you won’t succeed in the future.