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?

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2 thoughts on “Some wise words from Ben Cameron

  1. Transparency doesn’t necessarily equate with diminishing hierarchies, although some might say that strongly hierarchical structures frequently lack transparency.

    • Important distinction, Jerry, thanks. We found both transparency and less hierarchy in many of the bright spots we studied. We also found, to Ben’s point, that bright spots have very clear lines of responsibility and decision making processes, even though their structures might be “flatter.” This allows appropriate leadership to be executed at all levels of staff and Board.

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