The idea for LEANARTS emerged out of a hybrid keynote/workshop Opera.ca held in September 2012 in Toronto called The Lean Opera. In it, we tested the use of lean methodology and its application to the opera sector, and found that it was an idea worth exploring, replicating and lengthening for the wider performing arts disciplines.
Lean Methodology, developed by Eric Reiss, author of the book, the Lean Start Up, is a process used in the start up world, where companies without access to large amounts of capital, develop their business in an iterative way, known as bootstrapping. Starting with small amounts of capital, they market test, adjust, test again and so on, literally pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.
There are parallels between the start up world and the arts sector in terms of scant resources. Risk capital is essential to research, development, and the inevitable and essential failure that comes with experimentation. Yet in the arts, we have no money to waste. How can we learn to prototype on a small scale, test our ideas, and fail faster and cheaper? How can we make the most of our limited resources while improving our chances at success?
We think applying Lean methodology to great ideas in the early stages of development might offer an answer to these questions. LEANARTS is the realization of this idea, and the first ever program of its kind for the arts.
It’s important to note that LEANARTS is in itself, an experiment and a pilot. We are testing and documenting the potential of this project to identify the most promising new ideas, mitigate (not eliminate) risk, and instil confidence in creators, funders and other stakeholders to scale and fund tested ideas.
LEANARTS is funded through a Leadership for Change grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in partnership with the Performing Arts Alliance (Opera.ca, Orchestras Canada, PACT, Canadian Dance Assembly and CAPACOA) , MaRS and The Working Group. We are all extremely excited about this initiative and can’t wait to see the interesting ideas that enter and are shaped through this process.
- Christina Loewen: Executive Director, Opera.ca
With LEANARTS we’re testing an idea about testing ideas. What can happen when arts organizations are given the tools - both mental and practical - to think and behave more like startups?
Innovators in the performing arts sector are beginning to pay attention to the startup approach to problem solving. The San Francisco Opera recently reached out to Silicon Valley’s Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, to explore opportunities for partnership and collaboration with the tech sector. And in San Antonio, The 3 Day Startup ran a bootcamp for performing arts organizations that introduced them to formal ideation processes and exercises to generate a large quantity of possible solutions to a given industry-specific problem.
But these examples are exceptional, and so far little has been done to explore the value of empowering the arts community to engage with this framework over a longer timeframe.
At The Working Group we’ve seen first-hand the impact that this type of program can have on the lives of entrepreneurs. We know that amazing things happen when you bring together people who are passionate about changing the world and help them validate their ideas with the support of peers and seasoned mentors.
LEANARTS is an inspiring opportunity to explore, test and document the value of this approach for the performing arts sector. There are many unanswered questions to be addressed, and assumptions of our own to be challenged along the way. But we hope that by sharing our knowledge with the arts community we can create lasting and meaningful impact, both for the program participants and for the sector as a whole.
We’re proud to be teaming up with the Performing Arts Alliance and MaRS to make LEANARTS a reality.
Holly Knowlman: LEANARTS Project Lead, The Working Group
LEANARTS is a unique program to help creative entrepreneurs in the performing arts sector understand their audiences, test ideas and measure impact. The program is aimed at providing a solid foundation during the early stages of launching new initiatives. I believe strong direction can make or break you in show business and am excited to contribute to the performing arts community.
In the creative and tech industry, I’ve observed increased levels of success when firms approach change with rigorous problem validation and testing. By continuously discovering, testing and documenting areas of success and improvement, it becomes simple to identify possible ways to create audience engagement.
I look forward to helping performing arts organizations define approaches to captivate the hearts and minds of their audiences by solving root business problems. Additionally, I'm interested in providing tools and harnessing the knowledge of expert mentors to help performing arts programs identify what's failing and needs improvement.
Bart van de Kooij: LEANARTS Content Lead, The Working Group