In the introduction to this series I shared my working definition of “innovation,” and in part two I shared observations on Who are the Museum Innovators based on the Alliance’s experience with Innovation Lab for Museums. In that post, I also pointed readers to Everett Rogers’ theories on the diffusion of innovation: how new practices spread from the 2.5% of the population who are the actual innovators, to the 13.5% who are early adopters, and then on to the early and late majorities (each about 34% of the population) and, eventually, the laggards. In this post, I consider where resources can have the biggest impact on innovation overall—what stages of Rogers’ model most susceptible to intervention?
- Futures studies had its origins in the 1930’s, as the US government looked at how demographic trends might affect society
- In the 50’s and 60’s, Herman Kahn used scenario-based decision making to explore the potential consequences of nuclear war
- Industry, particularly energy industries, brought the techniques of futures studies to bear on their own planning and operations. (Shell Oil launched its “Long Term Studies” initiative in 1965.)
- In the 70’s, the environmental movement embraced systems-based forecasting as a way of envisioning the way man was affecting his environment in unsustainable ways. This decade also saw the founding of related academic programs at the University of Houston, and the University of Hawaii in Manoa.
- By the 1980’s and beyond, the “trends industry” was mainstream. It had generated its own professional associations (the World Future Society in 1966, the Club of Rome in 1968, the Association of Professional Futurists in 2002), as well as breaking out into popular literature.
- Do the “social systems” needed to support wide adoption of these innovations exist? And if not, what can the Alliance do to help create these support systems—what is the museum equivalent of building airports that can handle the Concorde? The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Re-imaging the Historic House” aims to fundamentally change their approach to engaging the public with historic properties. As part of a larger reexamination of their operations, NTHP is examining what kinds of historic properties are suited to being a house museum, and when other, non-traditional approaches might better achieve their preservation goal. The historic site field has already taken several abortive runs at this thorny problem (see, notably, the Kykyuit II Summit report on the Sustainability of Historic Sites.) What can the Alliance and other museum associations, and funders, and policy makers do to create a social system in which these innovative reforms can actually spread?
- How can we help promising innovations scale to the point where they are widely adopted because their economic benefits are clearly documented, and their business model replicable? The Mississippi Museum of Art is experimenting with new membership models. What can we do to encourage early adoption of any promising prototypes generated by their project? The Museum of International Folk Art is questioning the traditional boundary between art museums and the commercial art market, forming a strategic alliance with for profit and nonprofit partners in Santa Fe to help the local arts community and the local economy. Can we quantify the effects of their project, and give museums tools to assess how this approach might produce similar results in their own communities?