TheBridge profile: Crystal Bowyer
Name: Crystal Bowyer
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: President and CEO of National Children's Museum
Past job: Director, External Affairs at Museum of Science and Industry - Chicago
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting Patisserie Poupon
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. I learned in my previous roles that in order to innovate, you have to empower talented people so that they can move quickly. We are building a next generation museum, a children's museum and a science and technology center in one, and in order to ensure our exhibits are inspiring for today's youth we need to constantly refresh. Museums sometimes spend 5-10 years building one exhibit, and I believe that we have to move faster so that the exhibits are still relevant by the time they reach an audience.
Q. Job advice in three words? Kindness is key.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? We will have some revolutionary exhibit spaces, including an Innovation Sandbox and a Data Science exhibit. In these spaces, we will take on topics such as cyber security, data profile tracking, and environmental science - including weather and climate change. As the Congressionally-designated National Children's Museum, we believe we have a responsibility to serve as a platform for research and facts. Our mission is to inspire children to care about and change the world, but we hope that our exhibits will also be informative for parents, grandparents, policy makers, and anyone else that interacts with the various spaces.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? I believe that innovators can learn from policymakers how to see a wider perspective. An innovator is often thinking about one specific audience or customer, and policymakers need to look through everyone's perspective.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? I think I'll go back to moving quickly. Innovators have to move fast or they can miss their chance to do something special, or do something first. In my experience, policymakers are more risk-adverse and that hesitancy tends to makes things move slowly.
Q. Favorite book, podcast or long-form article you recommend? Last fall, a piece in the NYTimes called, "The Existential Void of the Pop-Up Experience.” Pop-Up spaces are a point of discussion in the museum community because they often use the name "museum" (Museum of Ice Cream, Pizza, etc.) I always use references from some of these beautiful pop-up spaces because I think they are doing some things very well, such as moving fast, building less expensive, engaging a wide audience, and thinking about the complete experience. I liked this piece a lot though because it validates the power of museum experiences to inspire and educate. We plan to make National Children's Museum the best of both worlds - a beautiful, modern experience to accompany the engaging exhibits.
Q. If you could live in another city, where would you live? I would live in Chicago again. I really believe it's one of the most incredible cities in the world, but it's a very special place to work in arts and culture because the sense of community is so strong. I always say if every city has a word, Chicago's is philanthropy.
Q. What advice are you still trying to master? Take time for yourself. I am getting better at scheduling out my own time, but right now I'm basically in start-up mode rebuilding the organization, so it's been hard to find my balance.
Q. What is the best advice you have received? The hard things are the most rewarding.
Q. Do you think it’s important to take time to unplug? I am a big believer in giving yourself real time off away from work email. I think it's important to take time if you can and encourage your employees to do so as well. It's a mental break we all need now that we are attached to work at all times through our cell phones and laptops. A happy, rested employee is going to be more valuable and creative.
Click below to join TheBridge community and, among other resources, receive our bi-weekly updates with featured profiles.