Thursday, 3 February 2011

Marketing and resilience: predictability, curiosity and transformation

(image by Stuart Caia from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyz/3340435464/ under Creative Commons.)

I recently took part in an AMA discussion day where 10 people (who had to apply for the privilege!) discussed the relevance or otherwise to marketing teams of the 8 characteristics of resilient arts organisations identified in Making Adaptive Resilience Real , and how marketing teams could help build them.

For me it was a fantastic opportunity to hear how people react to that framework, and how they might use it. (Writing anything is, in my experience, a bit like putting a message in a bottle, so to be part of a really engaged conversation where people apply their experiences to something you’ve written was really great, so huge thanks to all who took part.)

One things I came away with particular ‘need to think about’ was the notion of ‘predictability’ and the sense or otherwise of either aiming for it – or indeed believing it can be achieved. Is a greater degree of predictability - in some of your income lines, say – inherently conservative? My initial reaction is sometimes, but not necessarily. Having some predictable income can help you to take risks and to invest in things which make take some time to see a reliable return either financially, artistically or organisationally. This is why I place particular emphasis on building up strategic reserves – this allows you to move away from an activity-budget based approach to one of investment. And of course predictions are always only that – guesses, in other words - and need to be constantly assessed against reality.

The need for balance between change and continuity runs through my thinking on adaptive resilience – and indeed my thinking on other ‘ecology’ matters. The challenge though is whether adaptive resilience is ambitious or radical enough. Do we need transformative resilience? My view now, as when writing the paper, is that ‘transformative resilience’ is a sexier term, undoubtedly, but also suggests the kind of permanent revolution I think spins the adaptive cycle too quickly and threatens the baby/bathwater balance. There are times for transformation, of course, and this is probably one – but that is often best done from a base of resilience as well as danger or excitement. 

A third notion came up I want to ponder on, which is the role of curiosity in the arts and marketing the arts. Should one add curiosity into ‘situation awareness’ – looking for what we don’t know we need to know, as well as what we do? (Rumsfeld Alert! Rumsfeld Alert!) This sits well with another word I like which Susan Royce threw into the resilience mix, ‘agile’. How do we use our collective intelligence, curiosity, data and persuasive powers – all things marketers bring to organisations – to strengthen organisations and the sector as a whole?

Answers on a postcard, please...

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