These initial research reports were completed during summer 2014 by members of the Createquity editorial team. They are intended to give a sense of our (very) preliminary thoughts on the topic in question. We welcome discussion and debate. – IDM

Process background

Devon and Ian spent approximately 10-12 hours on hypothesis definition and searching for research reports online. Ian spent the first two hours or so accessing literature on decision-making in general and in a management context via EBSCO, then switched to JSTOR to further explore the same topics, eventually narrowing the topic to decision-making in an arts administration context. Both Ian and Devon searched or browsed a number of arts-related research journals, such as the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society and Museum Management and Curatorship. A full list of research actions is reproduced below.

  1. MLK: Ian searched EBSCOHost Social Science Full Text for texts with decision making and cognitive bias in the title or abstract.
  2. MLK: Ian searched EBSCOHost Social Science Full Text for texts with decision in the title and literature review in the title or abstract.
  3. LOC: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with decision making and cognitive bias in the title.
  4. LOC: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with decision making, bias and policy in the title.
  5. LOC: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with decision making and literature review in the title.
  6. LOC: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with “decision making” and “arts administrators” in the full text.
  7. LOC: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with “decision making” and “arts managers” in the full text.
  8. LOC: Ian searched Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society archives for texts with “decision” in the title.
  9. At home: Ian searched JSTOR for texts with curation and marginalized in the full text that also mentioned art, music, theater, theatre or dance. (This was after a number of other combinations that didn’t turn anything notable up, like curation + arts + disadvantaged in the title.)
  10. At home: Ian searched ResearchGate for texts with “arts organizations” and effectiveness in the title/abstract/keywords.
  11. LOC: Devon browsed Journal of Culture Policy from 2012 -2014
  12. LOC: Devon browsed Journal of Arts, Management, and Law from 2009 – 2013
  13. LOC: Devon browsed Journal of Cultural Economics from 2012 – 2014
  14. LOC: Devon browsed Museum Management and Curatorship from 2011 – 2014
  15. LOC: Devon searched Nonprofit Management and Leadership for “evaluation”
  16. LOC: Devon browsed International Journal of Arts Management from 2008 – 2010
  17. LOC: Devon browsed Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts from 2012 – 2013
  18. Home: Devon googled “does art improve lives” “instrumental value of arts”

Our collaboratively generated list of research can be found here.

 

Extent to which research exists addressing the topic area in general

There is certainly a wide body of literature addressing the topic of effective decision making in general. Much of this literature focuses on various biases that can interfere with rational decisions, although there is a competing strand that illuminates the virtuous qualities of intuition. Much less research exists specifically addressing the propensity of arts administrators to employ effective or ineffective decision-making strategies in their practice. The handful of studies we found on this topic tend to rely on surveys of management and seem fairly basic in their design.

 

Extent to which research exists addressing the specific hypotheses that we developed

We encountered difficulty finding research pertaining very specifically to most of our hypotheses, with one exception noted below, and what literature we have found has tended to take the form of theory or argumentation rather than empirical study.

We were able to find some research that is tangentially relevant to our hypotheses. For example, there is plenty of literature on diversity in the workforce, including the arts workforce. However, we were unable to find anything directly answering either whether arts managers with a curation role (e.g., artistic directors, literary managers, gallery owners) are failing to identify people whose work adds something unique to the cultural diet of humanity or whose culture is deeply marginalized in society, or whether a lack of diversity training is behind any such failure. Similarly, we know of literature on the existence and nature of instrumental benefits of the arts, but this literature does not seem to address the extent to which arts managers are aware of ways to measure these benefits or are choosing to incorporate those measures into their decision-making process.

The one area that did seem to offer relatively more promise relates to the hypothesis that arts managers are failing to connect people with opportunities they are likely to appreciate the most in part because they are not taking advantage of predictive analytics. Though the literature base is not extensive, we did find research addressing both the benefits of predictive analytics in an arts context and their lack of uptake within the sector.

That said, it should be noted that this was very much a preliminary review and further investigation would likely yield relevant sources that we have not yet uncovered.

 

Hypotheses that should be added in light of what we found in the research

During the course of our investigation, we did add to our first hypothesis, which now reads:

Arts administrators lack the skills to identify people whose work improves other people’s lives in concrete and meaningful ways because evaluative metrics and methodologies typically don’t do a good job of measuring “improvement” across arts disciplines or treatment conditions, and because administrators don’t know of or how to use the research that does exist.

The portion in italics is new, and was inspired in part by search results.

 

Areas of consensus and debate in the research

In the broad decision-making research, it seems fairly uncontroversial that cognitive biases exist and that they affect decision making. However, there does seem to be a bit of debate around the extent to which this is a problem for the strategic management of organizations.

Otherwise, the literature was too thin for us to determine obvious strands of consensus based on this preliminary review.

 

Initial impression regarding the extent to which each hypothesis is supported by the research that does exist

  • We have a low (Ian) to medium (Devon) level of confidence that the research that does exist supports the hypothesis that arts administrators lack skills to identify people whose work improves other people’s lives in meaningful ways.
  • We have a low level of confidence that the research supports the hypothesis that arts administrators lack skills to identify people whose work adds something unique to the cultural diet of humanity or whose culture is deeply marginalized in society.
  • We have a medium (Ian) to high (Devon) level of confidence that the research supports the hypothesis that arts administrators are failing to connect people with opportunities to participate that they would appreciate the most.
  • We have a low (Ian) to medium (Devon) level of confidence that the research supports the hypothesis that arts nonprofits do not perform their role in a healthy arts ecosystem as efficiently or effectively as they could due to HR challenges.

With all of the above, it’s important to note that we did not find much research disconfirming these hypotheses; the low levels of confidence are primarily the result of most of the research having only tangential relevance. In addition, we feel that there is likely more out there on some of these topics that we were not able to find.

 

Utility of Zotero, Papers, and Google Docs/Sheets for tracking preliminary investigations like these

Devon reported no complaints with Google Docs and Sheets. Ian liked being able to track notes and actions easily in Google Docs, but found the grid format of Sheets to be time-consuming for recording information and limiting in terms of easily accessing the literature that had already been recorded. He is eager to try another solution.