By Rick Biddle
Bigger. Better. Faster.
For those of us leading visitor-based cultural institutions, these words often spawn dread in the pit of our stomachs from the sense of unyielding pressure to do more, deliver more, achieve more. Striving to meet the never-ceasing demands from an audience wooed by ever-increasing competition for their attention can feel a lot like being a hamster on a wheel that steadily increases its speed. But what if instead of viewing Bigger. Better. Faster. as an onerous mandate, we took this mantra for what it really is: an advantageous opportunity to adopt a new way of thinking to stay ahead of the next evolution?
Embracing Bigger. Better. Faster. will help organizations—not only visitor-based cultural institutions but all sectors—maintain a vital sense of relevance to their audiences. By employing new, innovative thinking that effectively addresses the needs and interests of audiences (Better), and by doing so more expeditiously and proactively (Faster), organizations can make a powerful impact on their audiences and even the general public (Bigger).
Many of our clients at Schultz & Williams are strong, thriving organizations doing critically important work across the social services, education, healthcare, conservation and cultural attractions sectors. In many cases, they have managed to do this in the face of tremendous evolution over the last several decades. Some have even managed to find ways to adapt and thrive in industries that are seemingly in constant flux and/or impacted by weather and other circumstances beyond their control.
The challenge and opportunity that most of our clients face is how to identify, anticipate, prepare for and ultimately navigate the next evolution. These changes—small and large, personal and political, customer-facing and in-house—challenge organizations to remain relevant not only to survive, but to thrive and ensure they are providing the highest quality programs and services to meet the ever-changing needs and interests of their core audiences.
Although we might not fully understand or know what the next evolution will entail or what “relevance” means for our clients/guests, it is critical that organizations invest in new thinking and develop new ways of executing their missions that establish what “relevance” means for them. The most successful organizations will not wait for others to take this step. They will lead the effort to proactively define their futures, occupying the forefront of the next evolution rather than responding reactively and following the trends set by others.
What does this all mean for the cultural attractions sector, specifically for our zoo and aquarium clients? Zoos and aquariums must invest the time and resources in new thinking and embrace new opportunities in order to both lead and maintain their relevance. Bigger. Better. Faster. must serve as a rallying cry to inspire new thinking and embolden decisive action in this effort. Zoos and aquariums must move forward with the confidence to depart from the more traditional and established norms while also responding to larger shifts in how audiences engage with their environments by considering the following ideas:
The next evolution is knocking at the door.
Are you ready?