The Houston Zoo (a Schipul client) is hosting the annual AZA 2010 conference in Houston this year and we are lucky enough to join them to document the experience!
From a fantastic kick off bash at Houston MFAH to a standing ovation for keynote speaker Jim Collins (author of Good to Great), the AZA 2010 conference is a great and interactive experience for zoo and aquarium leaders to learn, connect and innovate.
Jim Collins led a great panel on moving Zoos from ‘good to great’ – some tidbits from the panelists:
- When businesses do well, they are making a bunch of money. When Zoos are doing well, they are making faces and running around happy. They don’t know they are successful until they see it.
- Graffiti – you go into a school where kids don’t honor their spaces. In Zoos, you see no graffiti. People respect your facility and honor it.
- Hire for people skills, as well as animal skills.
- Be strategic in what you accept and what you don’t do for revenue streams – even if you really need the money, you must stay true to your mission.
- How do you decide what donors to partner with? Money is good, but mission is important. Do the sponsors make you feel ‘icky’? Will they shine a negative light on your brand. Then the answer is no.
On staffing, Jim says ‘first who, then what’. There is a difference between seats and bus – someone can be the right person on the bus, but you must put them in the right seat?
How long should you be patient? Values, will and skills – if it’s a skills question you can be patient longer. Either you are self-motivated or you are not, there is less time for this. Then there’s the values – and that’s a no patience zone. Either they match yours or they don’t. No patience.
What’s changing – what are the brutal facts?
- People come to zoos that care and love us, but not for the reason we want them to. Zoos are passionate about conservation and education, but most attendees come for a fun experience. We are aware and we wrestle with that.
- Biggest threat to wildlife is that we have a generation growing up that has little connection to nature. We must teach them our values and connect them to what’s important – and, as always, our educators are leading the way.
- It’s wonderful to see zoos using animals as ambassadors – not just nameless objects. Give them a personalized experience that pulls visitors in. But it’s important how we position themselves to animals, as other organizations are connecting with the allure of animals. We must remain authentic, educational and passionate.
Want to see some more great #AZA2010 posts? Check out these great ones on the Houston Zoo blog: