Cultural Managers Must Productize Their Skills in the Future

Iloinen piirretty hahmo, jolla on monta kättä ja ne huitovat eri suuntiin.

Productization is a familiar concept in business. In the arts and culture sector, however, it is a fairly new term. Productization is often equated with commercialism, mainstream culture, and sometimes even with underestimating the intrinsic value of art. However, in an ever-changing and evolving world, productization is and will continue to play an increasingly significant role in terms of employment – also in creative industries. The key is the ability to productize one’s own skills, create a new kind of value, and identify the forces for change in working life.

Why do we associate productization with commercialization? It is important to understand these concepts in order to see productization in a positive light. Through the commercialization process, a product is brought to market for sale and distribution. Productization, on the other hand, means modifying a product or service so that it becomes one clear entity and encapsulating the value it offers (Tuominen, Järvi, Lehtonen, Valtanen, Martinsuo 2015, 5).

Both processes aim at financial success, but there is still a clear difference between the two. The goal of commercialization is to enter and succeed in the market – in other words, purely business related goals. Rather, productization can be seen as a clarification of a service, product, or idea. In the arts and culture sector, this would mean, for example, identifying, describing and designing the manager’s know-how into a clear, attractive and customer-friendly service package. The focus is on the content, and the potential economic benefit is a result of productization.

Thus, the productization of your own know-how is not about selling your soul for money. It can also be done by listening to your own values and bringing out your own unique expertise and brand – with soft values as a priority.

Will I Be Able to Meet the New Demands of the Changing Industry? 

The future of cultural managers is changing. Due to COVID-19, the industry is financially unstable and more and more productions are being made one project and one financing at a time. Salaries come from multiple different sources, and individual projects and gigs are done simultaneously for different employers. One key skill for the future is undoubtedly tolerating uncertainty (Aktan 2017, 21).

A stick-figure drawn on a blackborad climbing up stairs to get to a light bulb on top.
The ability to identify your own competence profile, create new values, and understand the forces for change in working life enables you to productize your own skills.

As the industry changes, uncertainty increases and securing one’s livelihood requires new solutions (Dufva 2020, 48). Due to the transformation of work in the industry, the creation and production of a new kind of value through work becomes central (Aktan 2017, 21). For cultural managers, this means that, for example, basic level production and event services will no longer be sufficient. Instead, cultural managers will be required to have a realistic view of their own know-how, interests, intentions, and ambitions. Opportunities must be sought even deeper, and the possibilities of new, intangible value creation and its connection to one’s own know-how must be understood.

Productization is one way of getting to know the new skills required by society and the value that enables new innovations and finding one’s own place in the future of the industry.

Recognize Your Strengths and Assets

We often best identify our professional competence – such as project management, communications, event production, and financial skills in the case of a cultural manager. Professional competence is the root of one’s competence profile. It is the strong foundation on which one’s values, other skills and personality intertwine. However, competence as a whole consists of several elements – tacit and explicit knowledge, skills, experiences, attitudes and connections.

Additional skills that complement professional competence, which act as a competitive advantage, are deeper than professional skills and can be derived from, for example, hobbies, interests, and personality. For example, an interest in sustainability and an ecological lifestyle creates a good framework for sustainable innovation in working life as well. Uncertain and changing career choices and aspirations should also be seen as a positive thing. For a cultural manager, work experience in the social and health care sector creates a good basis for expertise in applied arts and working at interfaces between different fields. Having a flexible work identity and combining different career paths and skills are strengths, not issues (Toiminen 2017, 48).

Strong emotional skills and creativity are also valued in the industry today. Customer-oriented service concepts and empathy as a tool for creating value in services play a more important role than products themselves. A new kind of intangible value creation, at the heart of which is experience, relevance and well-being, will be a significant driver of competitiveness and a prerequisite for future innovation, regardless of the industry (Tarjanne, 2020, 10).

Seven similar, closed doors horizontally next to each another against a gray background.
Open each door to find all the aspects of your competence profile.

From Skills to Innovations and Financial Gain

In order to achieve an ideal outcome, it is important to understand that different factors form a larger whole and everything affects everything. Those productizing their skills must also have an understanding of the perspectives and needs of the stakeholders, but at the same time consider themselves as part of the whole. Choices should not be made at one’s own expense (Fischer, Vainio 2014). In order to take that into account, it is crucial to know the target group and be aware of current phenomena and forces for change in the field and in working life in general. The larger whole begins to take shape when these elements are reflected in one’s own competence profile, values, and attitudes.  

Self analysis and reflecting on your own competence is a good way to start productizing your skills. However, objective perspectives are helpful and provide a more stable basis for the process. The methods of productization provide factual in-depth information that takes into account different perspectives. For example, using participatory methods ensures that the service encapsulates the best understanding of the value it creates (Tuominen, Järvi, Lehtonen, Valtanen, Martinsuo 2015, 5).

In the best case scenario, the end result is an innovative service concept that meets the requirements of the creative economy of the future that enables us to earn on our own terms.


Aktan, Aarne 2017. “Kyvystä sietää epävarmuutta tulee keskeinen taito.” In Toiminen, Marjaana. Välähdyksiä tulevaisuudesta. Helsinki: Mindmill Network, 20-21. (In Finnish)

Dufva, Mikko 2020. “Megatrendit 2020.” Sitran selvityksiä 162. Vantaa: Erweko. (In Finnish)

Fischer, Merja & Vainio, Satu 2014. Potkua palvelubisnekseen: Asiakaskokemus luodaan yhdessä. Helsinki: Talentum. (In Finnish)

Omapaja 2018. “Tuotteistaminen – itseäsi ja asiakkaitasi varten.” Accessed 24.11.2020. (In Finnish)

Opintokeskus Sivis 2020. “Osaamisen tunnistaminen.” Accessed 26.11.2020. (In Finnish) 2020. “Kaupallistaminen.” Accessed 24.11.2020. (In Finnish)

Tarjanne, Petra 2020. “Luovan talouden tiekartta.” Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriön julkaisuja 2020:48. 10-11. (In Finnish)

Toiminen, Marjaana 2017. Välähdyksiä tulevaisuudesta. Helsinki: Mindmill Network. 48. (In Finnish)

Tuominen, Tiina & Järvi, Katriina & Lehtonen, Mikko H. & Valtanen, Jesse & Martinsuo, Miia 2015. Palvelujen tuotteistamisen käsikirja – Osallistavia menetelmiä palvelujen kehittämiseen. Helsinki: Aalto-yliopiston julkaisusarja. (In Finnish)

Text: Johanna Muhonen, Master of Philosophy, Lecturer of Cultural Management, Humak University of Applied Sciences, 10.12.2020

Translation: Mari Ervasti