Many good, passionate people working in cultural organizations are deeply committed to nurturing the creative process and sharing the results with an audience. Passion and commitment alone, however, do not result in success. Successful leaders need a diverse set of proven management principles and practices, and sharp minds that know when and how to implement those tools; that knowledge and confidence is what I try to provide through my teaching.
Creative problem-solving and approaching challenges from different perspectives – incorporating different points of view and fresh ideas – also are critical skills for arts managers. They must know when and how to re-conceptualize, and not simply recreate or adjust incrementally. Students must learn how to confront and address the pressures of today’s external environments – political, social, economic, cultural, demographic and technological – through new thinking, new approaches and new answers.
My approach in the classroom – and with the curricula as well – is to provide the students with the historical foundations, current theory and practices, and the analytical skills to confront and overcome future challenges. My students learn not only what to do but also why to do it – a balance of the practical and theoretical. In addition, they also learn how to re-think their practices and processes when they cease to be productive. One important aspect of this problem-solving and critical thinking approach has been to encourage the students to explore management principles, strategies and practices from a broader perspective, from other sectors. Often the “best practices” within the arts, culture and entertainment industries may be among the worst tactics or ways of thinking in the larger context. The students learn how to evaluate their efforts and expand their thinking, to let go of what no longer works, and to embrace better, stronger and more effective ways of fulfilling their organizations’ missions.