Post image for Viewing the Bones

(This post is the first post of the Financial Adaptation arc #TCG13 blog salon–learn more here).

Let’s start the conversation about the Financial Adaptation arc at the TCG Conference by discussing something that appears to be unrelated, real estate.

First, a small confession.  I watch more than my fair share of HGTV.  I blame my wife for this disturbing habit.  The channel began as background noise while I did sophisticated things like reading The New Yorker or adjusting the roster of my fantasy football team.  After a few months I was debating the merits of homes and judging people’s choices:

“How can they pick that place?  The ranch style home is much more stylish!”

If you watch enough of those shows you see a familiar pattern.  A cute, TV ready, couple is trying to choose which of several homes to buy.  They walk into a home and it is filled with tacky choices.  The paint color is off.  The furniture is a nightmare.  The couple is not pleased.  At that moment the wise, commission seeking, real estate agent offers some advice:

Look past the furniture.  Look at the bones of the house.

Translation:  Ignore what you see on the surface.  Look at the fundamental elements of the thing because that’s more important.

Whenever I land at the TCG Conference I’m always amazed at the range of people I encounter.

There are people who work in large organizations located inside urban centers.

There are people who passionately run organizations that make in a year what the “big guys” make in week.

There are artists who do narrative based theatre and those who sneer at the very thought of it.

There are freelancers who are just trying to make enough to sustain a life in the game and those merry few who have more work than they can handle.

At a glance, these people have very little in common.  But when you look at the proverbial “bones” of it all you see a few common ideas:

What sort of resources do I need to achieve my goals?

Where are those resources coming from?

How do I get those resources in the world as it exists now, not as it existed 20, 10 or even 5 years ago?

Isn’t that financial adaptation in a nutshell?  That is what binds us all no matter what our specific situation is.  We all have goals.  We need resources to achieve our goals.  Those resources have to come from somewhere.  And we all live in a world that is more dynamic and complex than ever.

My point here is that, no matter what your job title or duties, the financial adaptation arc of the conference was designed with you in mind.  We all have the same bones, thus we can all learn from each other.

The general approach of the arc, and the approach I’m going to use as the online curator, is to focus on the bright spots.  We want to hear about how you expanded your Board.  We want to hear about how you improved your marketing.  We want to hear about your move into a new space.

We want to hear about your success AND we want to hear about the “failure” you learned something from.

Now when I say something like that there is always a group of people who are ready to share.  That’s good.  But I’m also talking to those who, for whatever reason, don’t normally share their experiences at conferences or online forums.  Maybe they think that their success isn’t impressive enough or that their organization is too small, or too different, to be helpful.

Let go of that mindset.  We want to hear from you as well.

If you have any story that you feel like belongs under the Financial Adaptation arc of the Conference, send me an email with a few details.  My email is  You could also shoot me a tweet @missionparadox if that is how you roll.  Some of those stories may land on this blog.  We will try to create space for some of them to be shared during the Conference.

Let’s use this online space as a place where we can learn from and help each other.  Then we arrive in Dallas let’s use that positive energy to make something special happen.

Of course we should also use our time in Dallas to drink, eat plenty of food and bring shame upon our organizations.  Or perhaps that’s just my own personal plan.

Let’s get this conversation started.

Adam Thurman is the director of marketing for Court Theatre, one of the largest nonprofit theaters in Chicago. During his tenure, Court has had some of the highest grossing production in its 57 year history. He is also the founder of Mission Paradox, an organization devoted to connecting art and audience. He authors a widely read blog on the arts, marketing, leadership, diversity, and other issues at He has been featured in the LA TimesTime Out New York, the Chicago TribuneChicago Artist Resources and TedxBroadway.  Adam is a former board member of the League of Chicago Theatres and has served on the Illinois Arts Council’s Advisory Panel. He has been recognized as an Emerging Leader by Americans for the Arts and the Theatre Communication Group (TCG). He is also a member of the TED mentor program and provides support and counsel to TED Fellows.