The driving force
(Reading time: 1m, 20s)
I’ve worked mostly in museums and other cultural institutions, and I have noticed that many of them assume they should be educating visitors. It’s important, right? So, they think – let’s hire teachers and have them tell visitors about what we have here. And that’s the beginning and end of it. They never seem to stop and think why they should be doing so. The nebulous concept of “educating people” is considered to be enough. But the why needs to be the driving force, not the what.
When I read that at first, I thought, “Isn’t educating people the ‘why’?” It took me a minute to realize that, while education may be good in and of itself, it is still an activity and one that is rather museum-centered. Learning may be an aspect of the museum experience some people appreciate, but I’m not sure many people drive to a museum to get an education on a topic. (I’m looking into this, though.)
When people start asking why, it can force them to reflect on benefits rather than activities. And when you’re thinking about benefits or outcomes, you start thinking from the audience’s perspective. From there, you arrive at what may be the most important question — “So what?”
It’s a sassy question with good intentions. When you apply so-what thinking to an organization’s communications, you stop talking about the things people can do at the museum that aren’t all that unique ("explore, create, play"), and you start communicating outcomes that can’t be realized elsewhere ("built brains", which suggests a more audience-focused outcome).
But how do you measure the impact of that shift in thinking? How does an organization know if it is communicating value effectively?
More on that next week.
Have an outcome-driven weekend,