In March of this year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the audience findings of a recent study commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO). The goal of the study was to understand what would motivate potential audiences to attend performances. As noted in the article, the results indicated that the PSO was outdated, boring, and full of old people. Clearly, these were not the findings that the PSO had hoped to receive. The PSO could have just hid the findings and kept going about their business as usual. However, the PSO seems to be facing the challenge head on and gearing up for a strategic shift.
One of the PSO’s great strengths is that they are a creative entity, and they need to channel this creative energy in their strategic process. A traditional process may be used, as many of the current PSO Board members are what could be considered traditional business, so a traditional process is what they know and probably have seen work in their respective industries. Organizationally, the PSO is structured much like a corporation, with the business guiding the art instead of the other way around. However, a traditional process would, keep the organization outdated. The organization should allow itself to be creative! That’s what it does! The process that was outlined in Bringing Science to The Art of Strategy may allow the organization to get creative with how they problem-solve.
Step 1 is about choice. The PSO should not view the declining audience and negative audience perceptions as issues. Instead, the PSO could rebrand itself along with its current offerings or look for alternative sources of revenue to keep the status quo. Step 2 would allow the organization to dream bigger. The idea of generating strategic possibilities is in itself a creative process—what a lot of artists do in their work. Artists create and generate stories that are chalk full of possibilities, so this step should come naturally to the organization. Steps 3 and 4 would give the business minds of the organization an opportunity to voice their opinions and skepticisms. Step 3 would be particularly useful to the organization as a whole to see where organizational challenges currently lie. Steps 5 and 6 would begin to generate commitment about how to proceed. These steps would also solidify Step 3, as Steps 5 and 6 would identify and reinforce areas that need to change. Step 7 would be the hardest, as once the choice is made, the organization has to be fully commit to sticking to that through the best and worst of times. This could be the place where the PSO falls back into the old comfortable rhythm.
The PSO has a real opportunity to break away from tradition. Tradition can ground an organization, but it should not stop progress. If the PSO wants to have an impact and broaden their audience, they need to change their thinking about how they will proceed.
 Bloom, Elizabeth. "Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra out of Sync with Potential Audiences, Survey Finds." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 15, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2015. http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2015/03/15/Pittsburgh-Symphony-Orchestra-out-of-sync-with-potential-audiences-survey-finds/stories/201503150029