As I work with student arts entrepreneurs, Iâ€™ve found that one of the biggest challenges they face is putting together meaningful, appropriate, and supportive project teams. Why is it harder for an arts entrepreneur to do this than a traditional business-focused entrepreneur? I think the answer lies in the entrepreneurâ€™s motivation. The traditional entrepreneur is motivated (often, if not usually) by the bottom line desire to make money from their venture. The arts entrepreneur, especially the student arts entrepreneur, may very well be motivated by the desire to create opportunity for the production and dissemination of their art. As I implied last week, an artist may want to â€œhang on for dear lifeâ€ to their work, making the inclusion of others appear to be a threat or a hindrance rather than a help.
As Walter Bennis points out in â€œOrganizing Genius: The Secret of Creative Collaboration,â€ â€œone is too small a number to produce greatnessâ€ (p. 3). At the end of the book, Bennis offers some â€œTake-Home Lessons,â€ including â€œGreatness starts with great peopleâ€ (p. 197). He goes on to define the need for great people to make up great groups. These are people who â€œhave more than enormous talent and intelligence. They have original minds. They see things differently. They can spot the gaps in what we knowâ€¦.They see connections. Often they have specialized skills, combined with broad interests and multiple frames of reference. They tend to be deep generalists, not broad specialists. They are not so immersed in one discipline that they canâ€™t see solutions on anotherâ€¦â€ (p. 198).
The attributes Bennis lists are important to the formation of an effective arts entrepreneurship team. To cite just one example, a conductor starting a new community orchestra (as one of our p.a.v.e. students did) needs to assemble a team that includes not only musicians, but musicians with knowledge of community cultural development and a marketing manager who not only understands marketing but also has a deep knowledge of music. Fledgling arts entrepreneurs will need to learn to be open to input from their teams, because teams are smarter than individuals (see Bennis and also â€œThe Wisdom of Crowdsâ€ by James Surowiecki). They need not â€œhang on for dear lifeâ€ to one singular idea, but rather open their arms wide to embrace both the broad interests and specific skills of those smart and talented individuals they want on their teams.
The next challenge, then, is to locate appropriate team members and recruit them effectively. More on that next time!