Up to the minute news on arts and business partnerships.


A Simple Way to Improve Business Efficacy

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Diagnosing Art

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
Diagnosing Art

Diagnosing art? The following article from the Wall Street Journal looks at a group of physicians who are doing just that! Courses developed at medical schools around the country are training doctors to hone their observation skills by studying works of art. A swollen knee, a lazy eye—the subjects of many great paintings present maladies that offer doctors a new perspective on crafting their diagnosing skills. Just one of the many ways the arts are being utilized to build a stronger, more productive workforce.


Doctors Enlist Paintings to Hone Skills


Photo: Raphael’s The School of Athens, Universal History Archive/Getty Images. Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.


Universal Music Classics Partners with U. Miami’s Frost School of Music

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Universal Music Classics (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group) and the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music have announced plans to forge a business-academic partnership called Universal Music U @ Frost, intended to grow the next generation of artists and audiences for classical music.


Universal Music U @ Frost will center around four areas of innovation—the concert experience, the training of performers, the role of the record label, and the building of a worldwide network of young composers, practitioners and consumers who represent the future of classics. Frost School of Music students will be given the opportunity to work with artists and executives from Universal Music Classics, who will provide hands-on training in concert recording, marketing and audience development.


Universal U @ Frost will also include the development of a Master’s program in performance with courses relevant to today’s professional world, such as concert programming, new recording paradigms, audience development, entrepreneurship, touring, stage presence, long-term career development, and business management.


In a Universal Music Classics press statement, Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of the label, stated, “For those of us who care deeply and passionately about classics, it is no longer possible to operate within the old paradigms.  We must be take responsibility as change agents in the field, re-imagining and transforming our business to ensure a creative and vibrant future. ”


Universal U @ Frost is a powerful way for Universal Music Classics to engage with the next generation of stakeholders. For more information on Universal U @ Frost, visit


Business pARTnerships Blog Salon on ARTSblog

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
Business pARTnerships Blog Salon on ARTSblog

Interested in forging arts and business partnerships in your area but unsure of where to begin? Learn from those who are already doing it well in this week's ARTSblog salon, July 14–18. The blog salon will highlight successful and unique partnerships with the arts in various for-profit sectors through workplace training programs, creative competitions, corporate volunteerism, and more. You’ll also hear from past and present BCA 10 honorees, giving you an idea of what motivates businesses to partner with the arts. Staff of Americans for the Arts will also weigh in with a few words on how we see the worlds of arts and business intersecting even more in the future. Visit the Private Sector section of ARTSblog now for great arts and business content!


This blog salon is generously sponsored by Drexel University Online.

From Ballet Dancer to CEO

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Another incredible story of dancer-turned-executive! In the following article from The Guardian, Leigh Thomas, CEO of Dare, a UK-based creative agency, discusses the skills she took away from the barre and brought to the board room -- skills such as discipline, attention to detail, and the power of emotional availability.


I went from ballet dancer to CEO and this is what it taught me


"Even though I can no longer do fouéttes, ballet has been my competitive advantage in business and if I had to pass on one life lesson from it, it would be this from dancer and choreographer, Jacques d'Amboise:


'Just remember when you're not practising that someone somewhere is. And when you meet them, they will win.'"


-Leigh Thomas, CEO, Dare


How Ballet Helped Advance Her Executive Career

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Bonita Coleman Stewart, discusses the merits of ballet as a business metaphor, and credits her once-weekly ballet lessons with teaching her skills that helped her advance in the ranks at Google from a national industry director of automotive to her role today as Vice President of Partner Business Solutions. Ballet's training, choreography, the ensemble, and "preparing to jump" all offer their respective lessons and preperation for career challenges that Stewart has been able to face head-on. Read the full Fast Company article at the link below.


How A Top Female Exec At Google Brings Poise From Ballet To Business


“Most importantly you must dance as a corps. From a leadership perspective and where business is headed, it’s a much more collaborative environment.”


-Bonita Coleman Stewart,
Vice President of Partner Business Solutions, Google


Introducing Delta Airlines Innovation Class

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Introducing Delta Airlines Innovation Class, a mentoring program at 35,000 feet! Delta is using its time up in the air to connect an innovator of today in the fields of business, art and technology with a leader of tomorrow. Could YOU be next to sit beside a great mind and mentor?


"We have customers flying with us who are big thinkers and innovators and are changing the world," Mauricio Parise, Delta's director of worldwide marketing communications, told CNBC. "We want to bring the ones succeeding in their field together with people who aspire to follow them."


Check out the video below for full details.



For further information on Delta Innovation Class, visit


What Improv Can Teach Your Team About Creativity And Collaboration

Posted by Ken and Scott Blanchard

We knew any presentation by actors from The Second City, Chicago's world-famous improvisation troupe, would be funny. But who knew we would walk away with key insights into creating a collaborative work environment?


Yet that's exactly what happened after we participated in an exercise led by Second City actors Colleen Murray and Mark Sutton at our recent Client Summit. Murray and Sutton asked us and the 200 other participants to break into groups of three for an exercise that taught us a valuable lesson about the power of positive reinforcement in fostering creativity and innovation.


The exercise started off with an imagined scenario: plan a memorable company party. One person in each group was designated as the party planner. Their task? Come up with some creative party ideas. The other two members were instructed to listen to each new idea, but then reject it and explain why. The negative responses had a chilling effect on the person pitching new ideas. Even the most creative types gave up after four or five ideas. They lost their ability to come up with anything in the face of all that negativity.


Next, Murray and Sutton instructed the three-person groups to rotate roles. Now a new person pitched ideas while the other two listened. But this time, instead of rejecting the ideas outright, the listeners were instructed to use a more subtle “yes, but…” response and share why the idea wouldn't work. Again, it was a frustrating experience for the idea givers, who quit after trying a few times and getting nowhere.


Finally, the groups were instructed to rotate roles again. This time the two listeners were to use the phrase “yes, and…” to acknowledge, affirm, and build on the idea. The “yes, and…” response made all the difference. Ideas flowed. The groups generated innovative, creative approaches that none of the individuals would have come up with on their own. The increase in energy and collaboration was palpable as the room buzzed with animated conversations, laughing, high fives, and every other behavior you would expect to see when people are genuinely engaged with each other.


Could Your Team Use a Little Improv Training?


What's the response to new ideas in your department? Do people feel compelled to say “no” and explain why an idea won't work? Or are they more subtle, using a “yes, but…” approach? Or are you fortunate to work in a department that uses the most affirming “yes, and…” response? What's the impact on creativity and innovation within your team as a result?


If you want to use the techniques of improv to improve your team's creativity and collaboration, apply our three key takeaways from the Second City session.


1. Put your own ego needs aside

Focus on making your team members look good. What's right about their idea? How could it work? People with big egos aren't very good at improvisation because they constantly want to look better than the other person rather than work with the team to bring out the group's best. As Murray and Sutton explained, new team members often try hard to come up with funny lines and insert them into that night's show. Even when the new team member is successful in wedging in a punch line, it rarely gets the kind of laugh the newbie had hoped for. Usually, something completely unexpected and spontaneous gets the biggest laugh. But that only happens, Murray and Sutton explained, when the actors focus on making their fellow cast members look good, instead of trying to steal the spotlight for themselves.


2. Listen, instead of evaluating or waiting for your turn to talk

Another exercise we participated in was listening carefully to what our improv partners were saying--especially to their last word. That's because we had to start our sentences with that word after they finished. We were amazed we could put aside our concerns about what we'd say next as we really focused on what our partners were saying. This exercise drove home how working together to keep the conversation going creates a profound communication partnership that's rarely experienced at work.


3. Appreciate the contributions of others and say “thank you”

Listening, affirming, and collaborating requires time and attention. It can be hard work. Too often, people aren't communicating as much as they are taking turns having separate conversations. That's not good for improv and it's not good for collaboration in the workplace either. By saying “thank you,” or “I understand,” or “tell me more,” you bring out the best in people--which brings out the best in your group.


The funniest moments in improv occur when cast members focus on others and create space for something new and unexpected to happen. That's when one plus one equals more than two. When we focus on others and encourage their best, we set the stage for the magic of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.


(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!) - See more at:

(This post, originally posted on, is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!) - See more at:

What Jazz Can Teach Business About Innovation

Posted by Greg Satell

In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub.  She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training.


Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.

Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably.  The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.


A Struggling Artist In New York


Coming from a meager background, Carl Størmer was determined not to be a starving artist, but after graduating with two graduate degrees—a Masters degree in Music and another in Arts Administration—that’s just what he was becoming. He spent most of his time playing in clubs and improving the mastery of his craft, but making very little money.

So he started learning computer code, got a job as a database consultant at a Wall Street law firm and then started a career at IBM.  Later, he founded a startup and became Marketing Director at a Norwegian airline. Størmer had, in every conventional sense, become a successful business executive.


Yet he still continued to play and the more he did, the more he became dissatisfied with corporate life. As he thought about it, he realized that business organizations operated a lot like classical music, with structure dictating action rather than the other way around.

The thoughts turned to writing, the writing turned to consulting and even led to a Harvard Case Study. Today, his organization, Jazzcode, works with executives at some of the world’s largest corporations, such as IBM, Siemens and Novartis.


Unravelling Complex Interactions


The funny thing about complexity is that it starts out simple.  Infants learn phonemes—the basic units as language—as almost incomprehensible sounds. As they develop, they learn to string those sounds into words and the words into sentences until, before you know it ,they are a senior business executives giving conference presentations.

We’ve taught computers to learn the same way. We now have machines that can do legal discovery, perform medical diagnoses and even create and evaluate artistic works. They do this not by rote procedures, but by first learning simple patterns and then learning how to combine them into complex patterns.


Ironically, while our machines can now do this almost flawlessly, our organizations cannot. They are still largely set up around command and control, designed to perform simple operations over and over again with amazing efficiency, but have difficulty combining the patterns of those operations into something wholly new and different.

As Størmer puts it, “control is for beginners.” We need to upgrade the software of our organizations.


Unlocking The Jazz Code


Jazz is, in many ways, polar opposite to the corporate world.  Improvisation is prized, rather than discouraged and there is a minimum of hierarchy. Yet when it’s done well, it seems as if it is obeying a higher order, with the performers feeding off each other as well as the audience.  “Good art,” Carl Størmer notes, “is obvious but unexpected.”

So for organizations that want to transform themselves into more adaptive enterprises, Jazz can be an effective guide:


Preparation vs Planning: Jazz musicians prepare for years to achieve technical mastery and then continually practice even after they attain it. They are constantly building new skills, but perhaps more importantly, they remain focused on fundamentals and strive to improve every note they play.


It is this high degree of skill that allows them the eschew planning and adapt proficiently.  “Planning is making decisions early and preparing develops the ability to make decisions as late as possible,” Størmer notes.


Reduce Emphasis on Status: While Jazz ensembles do have leaders, status and hierarchy are devalued while listening and awareness are prized. This helps take fear out of the equation and promotes creativity.  If one team member misses a note, the others react to it not as a mistake, but as an opportunity to create something new.


Connecting S Curves: In the corporate world success can often breed failure because a successful model becomes treated as holy gospel. This can lead to strategic rigidity and eventually a failure to adapt to market developments.  Often, everybody jumps onto a popular trend just as growth is beginning to taper.


In Jazz, the focus on awareness rather than status and planning allows musicians to build off of past successes rather than become imprisoned by them. A bored audience becomes an innovation trigger rather than a performance killer.


The Mission Driven Organization


While Jazz is improvisational, it is not a free-for-all. As Jackie Modeste, whose consulting firm trains corporate executives using insights from music, points out, “The difference between an average Jazz director and a great Jazz director is that a great one brings a clear, inclusive vision to the table.”


And that, in fact, might be Jazz’s greatest insight. In order to improvise and adapt, the mission must be clear so that team members can act with passion and purpose rather than mere obedience to authority.


One thing is clear. Strategy is evolving and leadership must do so as well. A manager’s role is no longer to plan and supervise actions, but to develop and instill values.  If the objectives are clear and the team is prepared, skillful and aware, improvisation and adaptation become not only possible, but inevitable.


(This post, originally published on Digital Tonto, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)


Theatre Arts Education Programs Create Innovative Thinkers and Workers

Posted by Bruce Whitacre

A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.


Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.


These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.


Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.


As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives.


Finally, while companies are rallying around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), they have yet to fully grasp where the arts contribute to educating the workforce we truly need: creative, collaborative, compassionate, aware, AS WELL AS technically proficient. They seem more interested in a robotic, short-term tech worker than they are in the Steve Jobs or Sean Parker social visionary who can make our products truly improve lives and our companies worth working for. This is critical because as we see in other social change issues, such as gay marriage, corporate leadership is critical if this complex, multi-party field is to achieve true change. If companies don’t really step into this field as they have in STEM, we simply will not see the focused investment needed to secure a future engaged, creative America.


The Impact Creativity Innovation Program is about creating better lives for our kids today and for our country in the future. Theatres, like so many cultural institutions, are providing more than entertainment or community bragging rights. As we see with these programs, they are fostering improvements, making connections, providing services that will pay back in tangible and intangible ways for generations. How lucky we are to even witness this vitality and engagement. Even more fortunately, our partners understand the importance of this work and are rolling up their sleeves to help all across the country.


(This post, originally published on, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)


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Boards Risk the Future of the Arts When They Ignore Young Professionals
Jul 25, 2013 0 Comments
I’m an arts buff. I love the theater, live music, dance, and the visual arts. You will often find me attending two or three plays in a weekend, or going to a museum and then on to a performance of jazz or modern dance. The more...
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Charlotte Cultivates its Next Cultural Leaders
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Dance Troupe Markets Creativity
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Excerpts from an article originally posted on CNN Money on April 25, 2013 by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn    Most dance companies make money by selling tickets to their performances. Boise-based troupe Trey McIntyre Project has a...
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