Monday, January 24, 2011

Open the Door

An interesting blog post by Seth Godin has stirred the embers for me today:
People can be pushed, but the minute you stop, they stop. If the habit you've taught is to achieve in order to avoid getting chewed out, once the chewing out stops, so does the achievement.
That's the "stick" approach to management, something I've written about in the past here at Mad Theatrics.  It's one of the drawbacks of a dues-paying company.  (Now that I'm a free agent, I don't miss the converstions about how to kick our members in the ass and get them to participate more in front-of-house duties, committee membership and work calls.)

An arts institution is not a factory, and under-99 seat theatre even less so.  You can't crank out theatre like widgets and expect any kind of longterm quality.  Under-99 seat theatre is a bespoke industry, or at least it should be.  To flourish, a company must custom-make each production for its audience.  It's about taking time, taking care and putting as much passion as you can muster onto the stage. 

How do you go about making bespoke theatre?  A place to start is putting a little more faith and trust in the people you decided to collaborate with in the first place:

Give people a platform, not a ceiling. Set expectations, not to manipulate but to encourage. And then get out of the way, helping when asked but not yelling from the back of the bus.

When people learn to embrace achievement, they get hooked on it.
There was a guy I once knew who could not brainstorm to save his life. In brainstorming sessions, he would frequently clash with others, arguing why things wouldn't work or could never happen.  It got to the point where the others stopped inviting him to brainstorming sessions.  They were tired of having the doors slammed in their faces.  He's in charge of a bespoke theatre company now.  It's going to be interesting to see how things go.

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