In the first part of our series, we learned
that value is the lens through which you view everything. Now we can start to consider how to focus that lens.
The value of everything breaks into three important distinct pieces. That’s how you can determine for your organization what’s truly valuable. This is the moment for you to discover or remember, though, how you personally are working to make things happen in your organization.
The three pieces are INFORMATION, INVENTORY, and INTENTIONS. You are going to do some brief self-assessments for each of these, and you will have a score for each aspect. Then you are going to make a list of 10 things that you did last week. But today, we'll just tackle the first part: information.
Are you wondering where we're going with this? In the business of arts and culture, you need to have the right information; you need to take inventory; and you need to be intentional with your work.
Let’s start with what you know. In other words, information.
The Value of Everything starts here: with all the multi-dimensional information you have and collect at your organization. What does that look like for you? Take a moment to think about it. Include the quantitative data from your business tools, qualitative information that you observe, and the analytical information that you can gather and compile.
It’s fraught with interpretation and blind spots, right? It’s worth the attempt, however difficult, to define “everything.” For that, we’re going to use on of my favorite tools: a little self-assessment. Just four questions! You'll be working with a scale that looks like this:
You took it? Promise? Here’s the link again if you need it. The next part only makes sense if you’ve done the self-assessment.
Okay, then. Let’s take the Information scale from the exercise you just completed and look at it in a new way: with the two endpoints of the line labelled as assumption and ability.
We all know what “assumption” means, but what does it mean in the business of arts and culture?
It’s when an organization believes something without evidence from specific patron behaviors. Assumptions might sound like, “Our patrons would never pay £45 for a ticket!” or “No one would ever come to the Museum past 5 p.m.”
An organization that is quick to make assumptions has very little chance of successfully defining their “everything.” The picture they’re working from is at best inaccurate, and at worst misleading.
On the other end of our scale, the word “ability” indicates that the organization is turning information into knowledge. This is most successfully achieved through direct work with data. Discrete pieces of information can reveal previously unnoticed patterns.
In the pre-digital age, when physical stacks of tickets would grow shorter as they sold, a simple glance could tell box office staff what was selling well and what wasn’t. Now, with troves of data on tickets being printed, emailed, and sent to phones, we have an ever-greater ability to turn that data into concrete knowledge about ticket sales, visitors, trends, and just about anything else that you track. Similarly, data on donations, memberships, and other interactions can provide detailed knowledge of your patrons, members, and others who connect with your organization.
It’s the goal of this series to help you see the ways in which that data can drive your decision-making. The information we began to think about above is that very same data we’ll be looking at more closely in the next part of our series, when we tackle inventory and intention.
This article is Part 2 of a four-part series.