Is Creativity a Team Sport?
In a recent post, I asked people to suggest "Museums Worth a Special Trip." One thing I've noticed about the museums suggested is that many, if not most of them, are the products of strong-minded founders. Which begs the question, "Is Creativity a Team Sport"?
It seems a lot more straight-forward, if less democratic, to pursue one person's design vision than to sit through endless meetings trying to come to consensus among staff and advisors on the direction of an exhibition, or a set of exhibitions, in the case of a new museum.
The National Science Foundation, among other granting agencies, has essentially mandated an exhibits approach that makes all sorts of consensus-building techniques an essential part of the "creative" process --- but has this approach resulted in more interesting exhibitions?
Art Museums seem more willing to turn over their galleries to individual artists for installations, usually with very good results. How can less "auteur" minded institutions like Science, History, and Children's Museums take advantage of a strong-minded individual driving the exhibit process forward, rather than the oft-venerated "Exhibits Team"? (I'd love to see Olafur Eliasson put together an exhibition at a Science Center!)
The "Creative Team" Conundrum also rears its ugly head when thinking about visitor studies and that Web 2.0 favorite, "crowdsourcing".
In the case of visitor studies, many visitors are only able to come up with variations of exhibits and exhibit themes they are already familiar with. Every museum stocked according to audience surveys would likely include a rocket ship, a dinosaur skeleton, and a mummy --- not bad, necessarily, but not exactly moving the exhibits field forward either.
Crowds and focus groups are notoriously bad at choosing innovations, which is why companies like Apple don't use them. Apple’s attitude is that sometimes, to truly innovate, you’ve got to go beyond giving people what they say they want. Building consensus often builds mediocre, and "safe" (rather than interesting) design decisions.
Maybe we need to bring in more "trouble makers" like Fred Wilson to shake up our staid exhibition development models. As Kathy McLean said in a previous ExhibiTricks interview, "I don't really need a lot of money or time to do my dream exhibitions ... I need organizations that are interested in presenting unusual, thought-provoking experiences."
So what do you think? Better Exhibit Teams or More Exhibit Auteurs? Let us know in the Comments Section below.
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