2020 Book Review

Titles for Arts Administrators

We have made it to the end of 2020. While this year is undeniably awful for so many reasons, the disruption it caused to literally everything made me all the more curious and eager to read and consume new ideas. The arts and culture sector was already ripe for change before the pandemic, and now we have an opportunity to do just that because we have no other choice but to innovate, adapt, and evolve.

The titles below helped me consider a future that looks renewed and healthier than our industry’s past, as well as helped me formulate business plans and economic models to get there (some of which I’ll be rolling out in the new year; join my email list if you’d like to be notified). Many of these books offer inspiration and case studies from other industries, many of them shepherd personal growth, and many are written by professors at the best B-schools in the country and feature their latest consumer and organizational research.

The list below outlines my business-related reading journey this year in chronological order, along with a note about why I read each book and/or what I got out of it through the lens of an arts administrator. Give yourself a hug because you made it this far, and may some of these titles stimulate your thinking like they did mine as we look ahead to rebuilding our industry in a new, different way than it existed before.

Nine Lies About Work
Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall

Buckingham’s research on increasing performance meets Goodall’s on-the-ground experience with the leadership team at Cisco. From why traditional performance reviews aren’t helpful (and what to do instead) to why praise matters more than criticism for employee growth, the authors reveal one lie after another about workplace culture that still hold true for me eleven world-changing months later.

Positive Intelligence
Shirzad Chamine

All humans have an internal judge contends Stanford professor Shirzad Chamine, which for most of us, generally drove us to great success at times. But the other side of the #judgemuch coin is that it also inhibits us, stonewalls ideas, and kicks us when we’re down. This book is all about how to see when our mind is serving us versus sabotaging us, how to identify when it’s the later, and how to reframe and find opportunity within every challenge, a lesson that I turned to again and again this year.

Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work
Jennifer Petriglieri

Fact: being in a relationship with a partner who is equally driven in their career as you is hard sometimes. That I knew, but what I didn’t know until reading this book is that there are fairly predictable, career-induced relationship inflection points that are similar across working couples of all kinds (heterosexual, same sex, domestic, international, same race, mixed race, kids, no kids). Petriglieri sheds light not only on the types of transitions, but how to navigate them so that both career-minded partners can thrive in their individual work, together.

How to Be an Antiracist
Ibram X. Kendi

“There is no neutrality in the racism struggle,” writes Ibram Kendi in this book packed full of information for anyone wanting to further their own antiracism journey. He includes vocabulary to know, offers a dive into policy choices made in our country’s history, shares stats that reveal the depth of inequity nationwide and in our communities, calls out gender racism, and ends with steps to take toward antiracism — all in a narrative intertwined with his own battle with cancer, making the poignant case that systemic racism is another metastatic disease that he concludes we’ve caught relatively early.

The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table
Minda Harts

I saw this book mentioned in the feeds of some of my Black connections online with a note about how they wished white women would read it too, specifically chapter eight…so I took their advice. From top to bottom, I realized that even when I am not actively racist, I am sometimes an accomplice. I am not immune to committing microaggressions even though I experience them myself. I cite a lot of statistics about women that really only represent white women. Throughout these topics in a time that feels so raw, Harts is an optimistic cheerleader inspiring me to answer her call to action: I must double down on working to modify the way boardrooms, leadership teams, and the wage gap look for women of color. It’s not only the right thing to do; the world and our organizations are better when we intentionally ensure these critical and qualified voices are at the table.

Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One
Jenny Blake

In this pivot-overdose year, thinking about a self-selected pivot felt wonderfully indulgent. And Jenny Blake brought the goods to help with her multi-step process to define the future you want. I’ve written before about how someday I’d like to return to leading a symphony orchestra when the board and musicians alike are ready for changemaking go-time, and this mind mapping workout gave me great clarity on how to feed the outcome I seek.

Who Is Michael Ovitz?
Michael Ovitz

Known for his prolific career dominating Hollywood artist management, Michael Ovitz disrupted and reinvented what it means to be a talent agent. Filled with stories of ruthless and creative deals behind movies and TV shows we’ve all seen, Ovitz pulls no punches as he shares how he stopped at nothing to get things done for his clients. The only trouble is about halfway through I realized almost every single tale he told was about a while male, and that really made his heroism fall short.

The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias
Dolly Chugh

Often when reading about bias, the material tends to be story or science, but this book offers both. NYU Stern School professor Dolly Chugh shares her social psychology research with real world examples and application. Most people don’t want bias, and this book shows that, in her words, “good-ish” people who want to be better absolutely can be.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Arts organizations everywhere have had to make all kinds of decisions this year on how to proceed amidst our entire industry being shattered. Brothers and professors Chip and Dan Heath are no strangers to how-to guides (I covered their book on creating powerful moments in my 2017 book review), and here they delivered again with frameworks that can help organizations move forward in these bizarre times and as we rebuild. I took pages of notes that will be so helpful for orgs I serve going into big decisions, crisis planning, future big bets, and board planning scenarios.

WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game
Abby Wambach

I am fascinated by the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Their quest for pay equality while proving they’re so damn good again and again is captivating, thought-provoking, and symbolic. Soccer legend Abby Wambach — the highest goal-scoring player ever on the team (for both women and men), four-time World Cup team member (winning the championship in 2015), and two-time Olympic gold medalist — knows a lot about leadership, rocking the boat, and rewriting the rules. Her memoir lays out the old rules alongside the new rules to replace them, and I ate it all up.

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity
Scott Galloway

If the pandemic accelerated everything (technology, consumer behavior, ecommerce, you name it) ten years forward, what’s the fallout from that? Scott Galloway, NYU Stern School professor, entrepreneur, and investor, lays out the trends we can’t ignore and when an industry is ripe for disruption. Spoiler: the performing arts are prime disrupt-or-die material, and it’s not just because we can’t have in person events right now. In his outspoken and dryly humorous way, Galloway shares how businesses can take steps to reverse the trends we don’t like, ride the disruption waves to the bank, and construct a value proposition that keeps customers ardently committed.

See past book reviews here: 2019, 2018, 2017

About the Author

Hailed as “the Steve Jobs of classical music” (Observer), Aubrey Bergauer is known for her results-driven, customer-centric, data-obsessed pursuit of changing the narrative for symphony orchestras. A “dynamic administrator” with an “unquenchable drive for canny innovation” (San Francisco Chronicle), her leadership as Executive Director of the California Symphony propelled the organization to double the size of its audience and nearly quadruple the donor base. Her drive to see opportunity in place of unsolvable challenges or irreversible trends produces different results than the norm, secures new revenue streams, and galvanizes audiences and donors.

A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, her work and leadership has been covered in national publications including Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, Wall Street Journal, and Southwest Airlines and Symphony magazines, and she is a frequent speaker at universities and conferences across North America. Bergauer’s ability to cast and communicate vision moves teams forward and brings stakeholders together across the institution, earning her “a reputation for coming up with great ideas and then realizing them” (San Francisco Classical Voice). In 2020, she launched the Center for Innovative Leadership at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while continuing her consulting practice empowering large nonprofits to deliver game-changing results. www.aubreybergauer.com

“The Steve Jobs of classical music.” (Observer) Working to change the narrative for this business.

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