Building on research models

I was asked, back at the AIMAC doctoral workshop, to name three key articles I’m building on.  At the time I was a bit deer in headlights and failed to recall the ‘top three’ influencers.

But it was niggling me for the remainder of the trip, what conceptual model am I working from? 

As someone working in arts management, borrowing tools from humanities, I didn’t feel I had one model I could say was underpinning the research. “I’m cross-disciplinary,” I’d bemoan.  In reality I’m not, but I like to whine.

There was one paper I’d read that kept creeping into my consciousness. And when I had a moment I searched my databases hoping something would jump out at me.  I found no notes and got increasingly worried that my brain had failed me, that there was this all important article that I lost.

Yesterday I blocked out an hour to search for it.  And within 10 minutes I’d found it, and an hour later I’d copied out the magic model.

Only to find that when I went to save it I’d already (in February) copied the model into powerpoint and saved it in its’ own folder, clearly labelled.  

So clearly 90% of the time I’m smarter than I expect, but the remaining 10% (or should that be 11%) I’m even dumber than dirt.

This is all beside the point, as this one article pretty much spells out a conceptual model that I am leveraging for my research.  If only I’d put it into my AIMAC presentation.

Leadership through lived experience: a process of apprenticeship? (Kempster, 2006)

This paper explores leadership learning within a single organisation. In depth interviews are undertaken with six directors and grounded theory is used to develop underlying causal influences, operating within a particular context, impacting ability to lead.  The author uses the metaphor of apprenticeship to capture the essence of leadership experience and argues it has implications regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of leadership development interventions.

So in my case I too am exploring leadership through lived experience.  Where this paper poses the theme of ‘how have directors in a single organisation learnt to lead?” I ask “How have creative practitioners (across organisations) learnt to lead?”

The methodology, interview based, is similar, but the analysis likely to be different. Where Kempster takes a critical realist approach, I am more a social constructivist.

Many of the themes I am exploring around social learning, observational learning and communities of practice and the role of identity in leadership learning are included in this paper. Importantly his finding include (p11):

  1. Low level of influence of formal development through organised interventions;
  2. The dominance of notable people influencing leadership learning;
  3. Realisation by the directors, through the interview process, of influences shaping leadership learning.

This echoes the findings I am seeing in my data, with number two being more around participation in close communities of practice as opposed to notable people (though they often exist within the community).  I am also getting a lot of comments about the ‘therapeutic’ nature of the interview process, that suggests, like Kempster, that the research process is providing space for leadership reflection.

My research differs from the industry perspective, the organisational perspective and I have an additional element which is the question of rejection of leadership, which I doubt is something that Kempster would have encountered in his subjects.

Kempster developed a model that could provide the framework for my research:


In essence my thesis is exploring this model within the creative industries context, and arguing that communities of practice are the environments in which experiences, reflection, knowledge and participation occurs.  Those outside communities do not embrace the ‘becoming’ identity development as readily and are more likely to reject the role of leader.

To paraphrase Kanye West….*drops mic.*

New goals for semester 2

Back this week and hard at it.  I spent my first day at ‘work’ at another workshop run by UTS, conducted by Nick Hopwood. Once again it was a fantastic, practical session that (I hope) will help me unlearn some of the bad academic habits I’ve developed.

The events over the past month, however, have persuaded me to reconsider my goals for this semester.  I thought I’d note them down before meeting with my supervisor tomorrow.

1. Interviews: feedback from the conference was that I may have too much data.  I could technically stop collecting data now and just write on the arts sector.  My gut feeling, however, if this won’t be as interesting as if I wrote on the creative industries more broadly.  I want to understand how different organisational structures and profit motives influence communities of practice and leadership development.  Do those in more ‘traditional’ organisationally structured sectors like advertising have an organisationally driven approach?  I almost want these people included to benchmark how communities of practice may be a unique feature available to the arts.

So with that in mind I am reducing the number of interviews, but not stopping.  I will have 33 soon, and I’ve planned to do 5 on the advertising sector in Melbourne, and maybe another 5 on computer animation in early 2016.  Thus I’m thinking I’ll do one more group, either publishing or gaming/app design (anyone know any emerging leaders who would be willing to participate from these sectors let me know.)  If all of these feature male primary subjects it will help me achieve a gender balance and bring my total number of interviews to around 48.

2.Delivery of the new course for UNSW is on track, though the experience of dealing with them this semester has been wretched and I am not unhappy this may be my last semester.

3. Writing a chapter, likely the contextual chapter, is a must.

4 & 5: Industry presentation and articles.  I’m less focussed on this than I was because of the feedback that I’m not academic enough.  I think I need to worry less about industry profile and more about academic profile. These may take a back seat unless a great opportunity/idea presents itself.


6. Conference paper at the 41st International Conference of Social Theory, Politics and the Arts (STP&A) in Adelaide in December. (Awful timing for me.)

Just need to see how this aligns to the Stage 2 requirements.


Our final day we used to Marseille to spend most of the day at Friche de la belle de Mai, a great location, with big cool auditoriums, as well as being a fascinating space.
After the artist studio tour, and morning tea, we settled in for the final plenary session, in English this time. Not to sound all Anglo Saxon dominant and colonial but HOORAY.

On a proposed new models for arts funding the panel consisted of perspectives broader than just European and presentations were restricted so dialogue could be had. Finally a well orchestrated round table…..well that was the theory. The reality was the introductory speakers went well over an hour and then the whole session ran 30 minutes late. You could feel the crowd tuning out 3/4 way through.
There’s been a lot of discussion on crowd funding, and Zannie Voss from SMU Dallas raised the point that crowd funding is shallow, there’s no one to one relationship with donors, which makes we wonder why no one is studying the ‘Amanda Palmer phenomenon’ because this clearly contradicts this idea that crowd funding doesn’t promote individual connection.
The Chinese perspective highlighted that government and industry focus has been on establishing creative industries, in which they have been very successful, but there is almost no support, government or otherwise for public cultural institutions. This is the new area of exploration.
We also heard from the head of fundraising from the Louvre, one of the most important people in this space globally. He spoke about how it was harder to attract business sponsorship unless there are two factors, one it links to social causes too for CSR purposes, or they want strong marketing benefit, bang for their sponsorship buck.

Little gift giving comes from individuals in France, but it is growing both from major donors and little value campaigns and crowd funding. The idea that culture as a sponsorship opportunity alone is not enough was a theme in a few places, culture needed to align with some other social cause or issue- culture plus youth for example.
A big issue, outside the U.S. where it has existed for a while, is the professionalization of fundraising as an industry and a career. Much training needs to occur in this space.

After lunch you would think would be the killer slot, the last session on the last afternoon of the conference, in a dark room on a 30 plus degree day. I’d say, however, they were three of the best presentations I’d seen over the conference. The first was a study of a creative clusters using a museum case study in Vienna engagingly presented by a double team. The second two were both American, the former examining knowledge centric organisations and whether they have better organisational performance outcomes and the latter on the relationship a state’s entrepreneurial climate and the sustainability of arts and culture organisations.

This wrapped up the content for AIMAC15, with only the awards, a final museum visit and the gala dinner to come. Or I should say the Gala dinner that wasn’t, but more on the other blog.

AIMAC CONFERENCE 2015 day two 

Anne from Deakin presented first on coproduction in the museum sector, specifically focusing on professional bodies as co producers. It was an interesting perspective for me given my employment with NAVA in 2012/3. She described a process of institutional inertia with regard to change toward new working models. That sounds familiar. 
The model took change management theory and applied it to professional association’s response to coproduction in museums. It was a great example, to me, of application of theory in a practical context. A great role model. And a note that it is a quirk of this modern world that I travel to the south of France to hear someone who grew up in the same area as me and who studies the local area my father lives in. 
Paper three delivered by Wendy Reid from Montreal in the first session was on role transitions for artists, such as moving into an artistic director role. Given there’s been a bit of focus on artistic directorship in Australia, and our tendency to now import in people from non artistic roles, I thought this was very interesting.

The second plenary session improved on the first, in the sense my headphones were not quite as painful, but still ran as a series of presentation as opposed to real round table. It was on territorial anchoring of cultural activity and not uninteresting to me from a cultural policy and creative cities perspective, but the combination of the format, the heat and the distance created by the language made it hard to maintain concentration. The last speaker, however, was the head of Liverpool 2008- European Capital of Culture who presented a really engaging look at the impact of the festival and societal impact of cultural activity. It was worth listening to the other six just to hear him. 
In the afternoon, really struggling with the heat, I left HR for strategic management to hear Ravid’s presentation on the financial impact of stars in Broadway productions. While clearly a “flashy” topic and one clearly appealing to many of my Surry Hills neighbours, it is really about the measurement of organisational impact created by individuals, similar to the study of CEOs. He is an engaging speaker and the topic was an appealing one (in short: theatre stars impact show performance, but movie stars do not.)
It was different being in the strategic management track for a while because I found myself in the world of quantitative analysis, all statistics and variables. I do love a good statistic in terms of using them to tell a story, but it also reminded me why I failed first year statistics in my undergraduate degree. (After being a maths geek in secondary school.) 
The third session in this block was an investigation into competition and copyright policies and while I like to think I know a little bit about the latter (at least in the Australian context) I had absolutely no idea what was going on after the introduction bar a few terms. The formulas looked impressive. I’m blaming tiredness. 
After a break I returned to strategic management, as I’d met someone who I wanted to support. The first speaker in this block, Dottie, was talking on strategic communication to build arts audiences and fundraising, and was presenting in a classic corporate way, not academic. If corporate style is at one end and academic at the other, I was somewhere in the middle, maybe slightly on the corporate side. Dottie was hanging out as far left as I’d seen since I left American Express. I was really interested to see if she got called on it, not presenting a paper in the traditional sense, given I’d been raked over the coals for the same. (I noted too Dottie had just completed a Masters, so wasn’t engaged in doctoral research or an academic.) And for a 20minute presentation I think she used about 36 slides. She reminded me of the Anna Kendrick character in Up in the Air (at the beginning of the film.) 
Interestingly the third speaker was a management consultant, from Ontario Canada, looking at change in arts organisations. She didn’t use a presentation at all, preferring just to speak. I could see from watching both of these presenters where the critique I received came from. In the first case there was no research, just hypothesis, and in the latter there was extensive research (over three years) but no theoretical underpinnings. While I have both theoretical underpinning AND research I may actually have too much research (as much as I like interviews I think I’m going to have to stop at 50 maximum.) And my challenge is building a comprehensive theoretical framework that aligns to my data outcomes and helps position me where I want to go academically. I think I’ve probably said this in every post but it’s been hammered home.
At 6pm I was happy to retire for an aperitif. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have two years to sort this stuff out. But at the same time I’m thinking it might be good if I don’t teach in 2016 to really focus on this.