“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.” – Henry David Thoreau
Know Your Own Bone turns ten years old this week! Here’s where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going with this data-informed resource for cultural executives.
I was sitting in pajamas at a friend’s kitchen table in Detroit in 2009 when I set up an account with WordPress and unknowingly changed my life.
I had just left my full-time position at Pacific Science Center and was taking the summer off before pursuing my Master of Public Administration at the University of Southern California. The movie Julie and Julia was coming out the next month (I’d seen the trailer) and blogs were all the rage. So I decided I’d start one. I had my personal mission statement in mind: To educate and inspire the people who educate and inspire the world through cultural experiences and informal learning.
I didn’t quite know what that meant I’d write about, but I knew it felt right.
I published my first post on July 6th about the top three lessons I’d learned at my first full-time museum job… and I’ve kept writing for a decade since.
To say that this website has changed my life is an understatement. It’s helped me create my dream job, and I’ve had the terrific honor of providing insight to “pinch me” leaders, organizations, and communities throughout the world.
In the spirit of communicating where things started and what is on the horizon, here are three of the biggest changes from over the years that have made KYOB the resource that it is today.
1) From upbeat blog to fact-based resource
In 2011, Know Your Own Bone fundamentally changed. I was hired off the speaking circuit by IMPACTS, a research and technology company that runs the largest, high confidence (95%+) survey of perceptions related to cultural organizations in the US. As my readership grew, so did the company’s support of KYOB and their willingness to allow for the publication of nonproprietary data. Since they hired me, IMPACTS has been supplying the data published here, editing and proof-reading my analysis to make sure that it is accurate, and generally dealing with a rogue millennial who is always excited and asks a whole lot of questions.
This website has come a long, long way. Here’s what KYOB looked like from 2009 until 2013 (Yes. This is the design that was up when I was invited onto the speaking circuit and was hired by IMPACTS. Web design standards and expectations were a bit different back then…)
Thankfully, things got much better in 2013! More of you may be familiar with this version of the website, which was up from 2013 until 2017.
In 2015, I first launched Fast Facts For Cultural Executives with the support of IMPACTS. This came about thanks to client organizations requesting short videos to share in meetings featuring key findings from KYOB.
One thing became clear to us by 2017 when we redesigned KYOB to the version that you see today: This isn’t a website that people visited for opinions. Despite my notable enthusiasm, (delightfully?) bad metaphors, and casual tone, this had become a website that people visit for facts.
Today, KYOB is frequently cited as a primary resource within the cultural industry, with a lengthy subscriber list of cultural executives and board members from leading cultural entities. I’ve spoken for Ivy league and top-tier graduate programs, keynoted in four different countries (and enough times domestically that I don’t have a ready list), and been cited as an expert on sources ranging from the Wall Street Journal to NPR. Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s most impactful leaders and organizations, thanks to data from IMPACTS and the popularity of Know Your Own Bone.
I am immensely grateful.
Know Your Own Bone was a blog started in pajamas at a kitchen table in Michigan. Now it’s a resource website with data valued at over $5 million, written while wearing heels as I bounce between engagements across the US, and armed with support, editing, and expertise from my incredible colleagues.
2) From audience engagement nerd to an intraprenuerial team
The development of a formalized branch at IMPACTS
Let’s be clear: I’m an audience engagement nerd.
In my relationship with IMPACTS, I’m also now an intraprenuer thanks to KYOB. Working within the larger auspices of IMPACTS, I’ve created a new venture for the company. My job is not only to help cultural organizations move forward by arming them with facts (available for free on KYOB every Wednesday), but also to figure out how IMPACTS can make the research even more accessible and applicable to individual institutions.
A first step has been to formalize and bring on new members of the team. Though my name is on this website, KYOB is very far from a one-woman show! Not knowing where KYOB would go or how to make sense of it when I first came onboard, our IMPACTS founder’s support has been critical. So has the company’s back-end folks who help provide the data findings that I request.
When Jim Hekkers “retired,” and left his position as the Managing Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2015, IMPACTS snagged him up. (So much for “retiring,” Jim!) As a leader who helped spearhead data-informed thinking at a major organization, Jim’s is an invaluable partner with a terrific perspective.
We started conducting formal workshops and data-driven discussions for major institutions and cultural communities together in 2018.
Also in 2018, we hired our Know Your Own Bone Coordinator, Bethany Corriveau Gotschall. She came to us from the Cleveland Museum of Art where she served as the Audience Engagement Specialist. Her expertise, perspective, and rad administration skills keep Jim and I focused and organized, and ensure that we arrive at the right back entrances to the right auditoriums for the right speaking gigs at the right times. We’d be lost without her… literally.
But the team is so much bigger than this! We also rely on the aid of other partners and consultants for projects that we bring onboard as needed. On the branding end alone, this website has benefitted from the aid of Orbit Media (who redesigned this website), Guy Bauer Productions (who creates the Know Your Own Bone Fast Facts videos), and Makeup By Jaycie (who makes sure that I don’t look like a nerdy mess in said videos), to name a few.
3) From “me” to “we”
Focusing on the facts for cultural executives
With the formalizing of our branch of IMPACTS came formalizing why we exist… and it’s the same reason why I started KYOB in the first place: To educate and inspire the people who educate and inspire the world through cultural experiences and informal learning.
That’s you, dear reader.
We’ve narrowed our focus and based it upon the data that we provide. Our aim is to lead the change in how cultural executives approach business decisions, moving from “best practices” based on guesswork to strategies based on facts.
We share 95%+ confidence market research that is necessary for understanding behavioral and perceptual trends impacting cultural organizations – not only amongst people who visit them, but – critically – also amongst the people who do not. This kind of high-confidence, specialized research is still staggeringly rare within the industry. We currently offer keynotes, lectures, and full-day, half-day, and board workshops about specific organization types (i.e. art museums, historic sites, etc.) as well as overall trends. Thanks to the volume of data we collect, we are also able to pull findings within specific states and regions.
Most critically, KYOB has evolved from an idea from “me,” to a resource that “we” use and share, with help from a wonderful team of experts, analysts, and data geeks at IMPACTS. The focus is on you. It’s on us. It’s on the data-informed light that we are able to shine on opportunities, and your expertise strategically integrating findings in order to best engage your audiences.
Keep your eyes peeled!
2019 is a big year for us, and we have exciting projects in the works! We will roll out a brand spankin’ new website for the cultural organization-serving arm of IMPACTS before the end of the year, with a new brand to represent KYOB and this arm of the company. From there, we’ll be experimenting with providing white papers, webinars, and other resources so that we may be as helpful to you as possible.
Stick around! We’ve come a long way together, but we have so much further to go.
All three of the lessons that I shared in my first article on this website in 2009 are still true for me, but the last of the three is most important of all: Remember to always learn something.
How lucky I am to work with and learn from phenomenal, mission-driven people – both inside of IMPACTS and out! Thank you for reading, sharing, and supporting KYOB over the last decade – from the bottom of our nerdy hearts.
…And most especially, from mine.
To knowing our own bones. To gnawing at them, burying them, unearthing them, and gnawing at them still.
There’s more dirt to dig through, and I am eager to be of even greater service to you in the years ahead.
Thanks for being here.
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