Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture

Developed by David Owens at Vanderbilt University and customized for the cultural sector with National Arts Strategies, this course will help arts and culture leaders create an environment where new ideas are constantly created, shared, evaluated and the best ones are successfully put to work.

About The Course

One of the toughest challenges for any leader is getting traction for new ideas. Winning support can be a struggle. As a result, powerful new ideas often get stuck. This is especially true in the cultural sector. People involved in arts and culture often have little time and even less money for experimentation and risks. This course will help those in the performing arts, museums, zoos, libraries and other cultural organizations build environments where new management and program ideas are created, shared, evaluated and the best ones are successfully put to work.

Leading Innovation in Arts & Culture will teach your team how to make an "innovation strategy" a fundamental component of your organization's overall strategy. In this seminar you will learn to:

  • Analyze constraints on innovation in your organization, foresee obstacles and opportunities, and develop a shared vision
  • Develop a process to manage the demands of multiple stakeholders, shifting priorities and the uncertainty inherent in new initiatives
  • Create a culture for innovation and risk-taking that generates new perspectives and challenges existing practice
  • Create a strong customer focus within your organization that anticipates customer needs

National Arts Strategies worked with David Owens to customize this course for those working in the cultural sector. They based their work on David Owens’ Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations course. This highly interactive 8-week course will engage your team through a series of class discussion and team exercises. The team from National Arts Strategies will use its deep experience working in this field to facilitate discussion among participants. They will also lead exercises to help you examine and change your current habits of thought and behavior. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you really teach people how to be creative and innovative?

This course does not try teach people how to be creative. Rather, it teaches us how to stop stopping it. If we can do that, a person's natural creativity will easily bloom.


What are the readings for the course and where are they available?

Freely available readings will be assigned for each course session. We also recommend that students purchase David Owens' book "Creative People Must Be Stopped!" which was written specifically for this course. Additional readings will be recommended during the course.


How is this course customized for arts and culture?

While the fundamental elements of strategic innovation are the same across sectors, this course will draw upon particular examples and constraints from the arts and culture field. The shared focus of the participants will create an international community around cultural innovation, which will fuel a rich discussion online. Many of the discussions and exercises will be facilitated by the team at National Arts Strategies, an organization with deep experience working with arts and culture professionals from around the world.


What are the course requirements and deliverables?

See next question.


Will I get a certificate for completing the class?

The short answer is yes. Read on for the long answer: In recognition that all participants will not have the same goals or time to invest, the course is offered at two levels of engagement. Each level will receive a different acknowledgement for completing the course. See the course syllabus for details. Also see "Course Format" section above for overview.


What is the format of the class?

The class will consist of lecture videos, assigned readings, and exercises. There will also be individual assignments and team assignments for those taking the advanced levels of the course.


How do the teams work (given that this is an online class)?

For those taking the Studio Mastery level, participants will need to work in teams of two-to-five persons to complete the course project assignment. You are strongly encouraged to recruit other local participants to take the course if only to populate your project team.


What if I don't have a team? How can I find a team to join?

If you cannot find someone to take the course with you, you can post to the class website in order to recruit other team members. However, you will not be able to start on the assigned group exercises and project deliverables until you have formed and registered your team.


Do I need to watch the lectures live?

No. You can watch the lectures at your own convenience.


How much does it cost to take the course?

The course is free. When assigned, readings will be available through links on the internet. See above for information on the recommended (but not required) textbook.


Recommended Background

This course is designed for people involved in arts and culture around the globe. The content and discussions will be ideal for professionals, board members, funders, volunteers, students, teachers, artists and advocates in all types of cultural organizations. This includes performing arts, museums, heritage, science, zoos, aquarium, botanical gardens, literary organizations, libraries, arts education and other organizations delivering arts and cultural content and activities around the globe.