ICT
May 7, 2012

Making museums nimble through business transformation

Canada’s three national science and technology museums include the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Agriculture Museum. Denise Amyot describes her experience in leading the corporation through significant change.

 

When I was appointed as president and CEO of the corporation in October 2009, I embarked on a fascinating journey of organizational transformation that required me to call upon my experience of government machinery, marketing and leading through changes.

Museums have evolved from being government-run institutions that were sheltered from market forces and focused on fulfilling their national mandates through annual government appropriations. The new reality is that our museums’ sustainability depends on increasing self-generated revenues. I quickly realized that we had to enhance our fundraising activities, forge new partnerships, and generally be more entrepreneurial.

In an increasingly competitive and complex environment of institutions seeking the interest, support and engagement of Canadians, we had to transform the culture of the museums into a dynamic customer-centric one. In this new landscape, science and technology museums must be relevant to society, not just as educational institutions, but also as catalysts of change. Our three science museums can play a significant role in helping the country achieve prosperity by sparking an interest in science among young people, showcasing our national accomplishments, encouraging the public to think and dream about the future, without losing sight of our traditional role of preserving and interpreting the past.

Our on-going transformation journey follows three threads.

We encourage all employees to pay attention to marketing. Marketing has to be about more than promotion or sponsorship. Market analytics and strategy provide us with powerful tools for business transformation. They allow us to better position the museums in the changing landscape. Everyone in the corporation needs to have marketing in their DNA. All employees need to understand our clients and their needs. Whether they are on the frontlines or in the back-office, all employees need to live, breathe, represent and promote the museums in everything they do. An important element of this approach is rewarding and celebrating employees’ successes in providing excellent customer service.

We are challenging all employees to make daily use of social and new media to interact with the public on an ongoing basis, both in the museums and online. These new media have transformed the way we present and receive information and connect with our audiences. Much of this is still experimental, but we have already gained valuable market intelligence through our Web 2.0 presence, enabling us to capitalize on rapidly emerging opportunities.

Our capacity to be “in sync” with our audiences depends on our ability to be nimble and responsive. A good example of this happened last spring, when we connected through e-mail with a partner who offered us the opportunity to be the only museum in Canada to display one of the rescue capsules used at the San Jose mine in Chile in October 2010. We put an exhibition together in three weeks by involving several partners like the CBC for news footage, the Embassy of Chile for the opening event, and Precision Drilling of Calgary, which provided Canadian expertise and equipment in the rescue. The exhibition reflected our new “marketing” style of thinking about the museum business.

Another way of staying connected to our market base is working through partnerships. This also helps us address our sustainability challenge given the limited resources provided to deliver on our broad and necessary mandate for the future of our country. Success can only be achieved by building stronger partnerships with Canadian research, academic and business sectors.

Our new pan-Canadian “Let’s Talk Energy” (http://energy.technomuses.ca) initiative is one of the best examples of this new emphasis on partnerships. This initiative is leveraging our expertise in creating attractive and credible science and technology exhibitions. With other partners, we aim to develop a multi-year energy literacy campaign, a first-of-its-kind in the world. Energy is fast becoming one of the major issues for Canadians. We are working with partners and institutions across the country to design content and activities that will take the “Let’s Talk Energy” messages and ideas nationwide until 2017.

As a leader, my role is to promote the vision, provide direction, nurture leadership, support entrepreneurship, ensure we develop the younger generation, pursue partnerships and leverage synergies. I consider it a great privilege to lead national museums. I am inspired by the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That is why I look forward to connecting with you via social media and to discussing partnership opportunities.

 

Denise Amyot is president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.

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