Attack of the 100-Year Old Startups?

Lightning Talk
Brendan Ciecko, Cuseum, USA

With the desire to stay relevant, sustainable, and to make up for lost time, new models for innovation and transformation are always a hot topic within the museum realm.

As I find myself deep in the trenches of two very different worlds (museums and startups) with the hopes to bridge them, I’ve not only asked myself “what can museums learn from startups?” but also, “what can startups learn from museums?”

Over the years, at countless museum conferences, my ears would perk when I’d hear of a museum using some methodology that is commonplace amongst startups. Lean, agile, sprints, failing forward – we’re just scratching the surface. Did you think we’d hear of museum directors and staffers referring to their institute as a 100-year old startup? Well, we’ve already crossed that bridge. It’s clear that there is interest in or at-least a romantic idea of what a startup is and what goes on inside one, but in the same right, there is a rose-colored idea of what goes on inside a museum.

If you work at a museum, you may be quick to question these points or write it off completely. That’s totally understandable. It’s apples and oranges – a square peg in a round hole. That “Silicon Valley” talk won’t work here, right? Museums, the majority of which are not-for-profit, mission-driven organizations, and are surely not operating in the “high risk, high return” arena and are not what we’d consider high-growth enterprises. Although there’s frequent talk of new business models, museums have a rather traditional approach which is difficult to shake. A startup mindset could hold a few of the answers.

In this lightning talk, we’ll address these questions with some wicked fast bullet points: “what museums can learn from startups” and “what startups can learn from museums.”

On January 2, 2017, the #1 business blog for startup news, with over 6M monthly readers, will publish a piece I wrote on a related topic.

This lightning talk responds to a variety of presentations, panels, and posts over the past few years.