Using bright spots to explain success

One of things that we are hearing a lot is that the bright spots framework is giving people the language to explain their success. In writing the report we hoped that it would be useful to help people assess their organizations and identify how they could improve, but we are thrilled to see that it is a useful tool for groups that are experiencing success as well! We got an email from Cathy Sang at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, who says that the report “helped me better understand why our Museum has thrived these past few years while others around us have not. I shared it with our Museum’s director who then shared it with our Board chair. We plan to use it as a central discussion theme at our management team and Board offsite meetings this July.”

We’re working on developing some more tools for leading conversations and workshops using the bright spots framework. To be kept in the loop, sign up here.

Bright Spots as a blueprint for an “ethically grounded organization”

Bill Rauch from Oregon Shakespeare Festival shared this view of the Bright Spots research in a speech to his staff: 

“[The Bright Spots research] found that organizations that are succeeding in these difficult times have five things in common: an unwavering commitment to the why of their organization even if the how shifts; an overarching  concern for their community and how they are part of it; realism about money, even being fiscally conservative; leaders who understand the concept of servant-as-leader (and leader-as-servant), including a commitment to transparent communication; and flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. How is that for a blueprint of best practices as we move into 2012, not only as a successful but as an ethically grounded organization?”’

We didn’t set out to make an ethical case, but the results beg the question: what does it mean to be considered a cultural leader in these times? What are the ethical expectations that we have of them, and they have of themselves? 

Barry Hessenius on Bright Spots

Thanks to Barry Hessenius for his post on Bright Spots. He focuses specifically on the characteristics of Plasticity and Transparent Leadership. He says,

I have long been interested in our field’s inexplicable clinging to the antiquated organizational structure dynamic of hierarchy and centralized decision making, when the litany of negative impacts of that approach is all too clear (labored as opposed to nimble decision making; squelching of younger management cohort ideas and input and the resultant negative impact on recruitment and retention of the best of the next generation emerging leaders; adherence to outmoded and outdated protocols and technology often resulting in sub-par productivity and performance and so on and so forth).

He calls for organizations to assess their decision making processes to determine whether they “take advantage of their collective staff talent, and, moreover, whether those approaches are the best strategy to allow for calculated risk taking.”

Some wise words from Ben Cameron

Ben Cameron at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was a thought partner and the supporter of phase one of the bright spots research on the performing arts in the U.S.  (read it here).  He continues to challenge our thinking in the best way, and had the following to say about our current report and where he thinks the conversation could go from here:

This report is smart, insightful and useful.  It builds well on the research we commissioned and takes it farther.  I’d love to see more conversation on some of the points.  For example, the section on Bright Spot organizations not seeing other arts organizations as competition made me think of Barry Nailbuff’s definition of “coopetition” — cooperating to grow the pie for everyone, even while it is inevitable that they will continue to compete for a piece of it.  In my view, many performing arts groups are likely to continue to see their counterparts as competition, but the ones that are succeeding don’t let this preclude them from cooperating and sharing, and recognizing there are bigger, more important competitive forces out there.  Another point that could prompt more discussion is the issue of transparent leadership. Personally, I think hierarchies are often good things to some degree — someone in the rehearsal hall has to make the decision on the blocking rather than reaching consensus, and ultimately the board is the group legally responsible.  The question for me is: How do we create more porous structures that invite different ways of decision-making and participation, without losing the advantages of deep knowledge and some siloing of functions?

ADEPT in education

We’re starting to get some feedback on the Bright Spots paper that launched this Tuesday…please keep it coming. One thing that we heard in our early focus groups, and hope to test, was that this framework might have resonance beyond the arts.

Sure enough, we got an email from Ginny Cartee, a coordinator of CHAMPS, a drop out prevention program for at-risk youth at School District 55 in Laurens, South Carolina. This week she used the ADEPT framework in a presentation to the National Dropout Prevention Forum. She says, “our projects are successful, but explaining why or how our small team can accomplish so many different projects has been more difficult than doing the actual programmatic work.” The ADEPT framework, “has provided the language needed to share our success with stakeholders. It gave me a framework to explain how we started and how we have thrived through the years by focusing on our vision of promising middle school students graduating from high school and going on to post-secondary education.”

This echoes something we heard when we tested this framework with Bright Spots themselves. This is stuff they were already doing, but the framework was helpful to give them a language to talk about things that often seemed mysterious, impossible or difficult to explain to others. And perhaps, it offers a compass for course correction when even the brightest organizations get off the path.

How are you using the framework?