For Melissa Firth, deploying a lot of \u2018firsts\u2019 is just one of the upsides of taking on the inaugural chief digital officer post at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.\nWhen she joined Te Papa nearly three years ago, she built a digital team from scratch. \u201cI recruited a new management team - all learning Te Papa in its complexity and how to grow into their roles.\u201d\nA year later, the team established Mahuki, the first business accelerator programme in the world, focused on opportunities in the culture sector, and based in a museum. \n\u201cThe acceleration model enables us to support and grow an innovation ecosystem around Te Papa and the wider culture and heritage sector, and to partner with industry (creative businesses) to generate new value for all - not least, our key customers, the New Zealand public,\u201d says Firth.\n\u201cMahuki offers Te Papa a unique opportunity to tap into the creativity of New Zealand innovators, and it offers those innovators the chance to work in, and benefit from, our unique environment,\u201d she says.\nThe programme provides the participants access to sector knowledge, collections, museological and business expertise, and a chance to market test with the museum\u2019s 1.5 million visitors. \nThe 2017 entrepreneurs who participated in Mahuki have developed a range of experience and enterprise technology business ideas including: Collaborate (a digital marketplace matching skilled volunteers with charities and cultural organisations who have need for specific skills); VR storytelling platform I Want To Experience; Vaka - interactive digital portraits that use chatbot functionality to enhance the visitor experience; and Simplify \u2013 collection cataloguing and managing made easy for customers ranging from cultural institutions to private collectors to families. \n\u201cEveryone benefits \u2013 Te Papa gets a lift in capability, and an ability to explore suites of new ideas that can be applied across core and new business and to culture sector development, which we are mandated to support under the Te Papa Act; and the businesses themselves benefit from significant opportunities available with Te Papa as first customer and through the global sector relationships we hold.\u201d\nFirth says there were several factors to consider before they started Mahuki.\nWe had to ensure we had the power under Te Papa\u2019s Act to implement the proposed Mahuki acceleration model; and obtain approval from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.\nTe Papa also had to make room to house the new purpose-built innovation space. In combination with a much-needed accommodation refit programme \u2013 we were able to create the needed footprint, she says.\nWhen you\u2019re navigating uncharted waters, and there\u2019s no map to follow... recovery from mistakes is part of learning.\nCustomer focus, co-creation\nShe explains the current digital strategy for Te Papa is increasing public reach and access to the national collections, stories and knowledge; improving the effectiveness and sustainability of their work through innovation and the use of transformative technology platforms; and using the interactive and participatory strengths of internet technologies to create great, engaging audience experiences and amplify the co-creation approaches Te Papa has always been known for.\nIn 2017, her team replatformed the museum\u2019s online collections with lightning fast search and a new underpinning Collections API. API keys have been given to Auckland Museum, Digital New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs so far.\nThey also started an rapid digitisation programme that delivered in its first two months the same number of imaged and described taonga (treasures) which it previously took a year to complete. \n\u201cWe\u2019ve also reduced by half the effort and cost to deliver exhibition interactives by creating a new digital delivery platform that also gives us access to usage analytics for the first time,\u201d she says.\n\u201cWe\u2019ve grown audience reach to Te Papa\u2019s main website by 22 per cent through a content strategy of timely online editorial that meets the different interests, contexts and needs of New Zealanders online and treating that audience as distinct from physical visitors researching their impending visits to Te Papa.\u201d\nOn top of this, they have rolled out a SaaS DAMS (Digital Asset Management System) for the rich media assets used in all the museum\u2019s storytelling and communications operations.\nFirth explains structurally, a significant portion of the digital capability they have built is at present tied to capital projects. \n\u201cThe challenge for every business in a digital age, including Te Papa, when it\u2019s growing its digital capability \u2013 is the need to identify, plan for and resource an appropriate baseline of digital operational capability \u2013 that work is currently in progress.\u201d\nOperationally, alongside developing the museum\u2019s first three-year digital strategy, Firth and her team also developed a new digital product development framework that uses tools from lean, agile and design thinking, and has a two-tier governance structure for risk assurance.\nThey ran a number of education workshops with finance, risk and the executive leadership team to communicate the different governance approaches needed for agile projects as opposed to waterfall-delivered projects.\n\u201cInitially, it felt a bit weird having designed processes for a team that didn\u2019t yet exist \u2013 but the value of that foundational work has been significant,\u201d says Firth. \n\u201cEvery new digital team member on-boarded knows exactly what the process is and how we \u2018do digital\u2019 at Te Papa. And the team themselves refined and improved the toolset in response to learnings from implementing the framework.\u201d\nFirth participates in the weekly executive leadership team meetings in which key organisational decisions are made. \nShe has run executive workshops on agile, lean, design-thinking, product management and how governance differs for projects run via those processes.\n\u201cOne of the nicest pieces of feedback I had from a couple of our digital leaders during this year\u2019s performance reviews was that it felt safe to make mistakes,\u201d says Firth.\n\u201cWhen you\u2019re navigating uncharted waters, and there\u2019s no map to follow, no received wisdom, recovery from mistakes is the crucial resilience needed to ultimately build to a successful product or initiative.\u201d\nShe stresses to her leadership team the importance of having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.\n\u201cEveryone is capable of learning more, being betterhellip; I\u2019ve found that people who work on self-awareness, those who strive to be better, who read around their issues, who are open to learning and take on feedback hellip; they are the superstars,\u201d she says.\nOn her leadership style, she generally gives her teams autonomy. \nUsing agile practices, we devolve decision-making responsibility to the team to give them autonomy to apply their judgment appropriate to their level of work, and the problem\/challenge\/opportunity, she says.\nFirth says one of the most valuable things she did for her new leadership team was a two-day leadership workshop using using LSI (Life Styles Inventory, a personal development assessment tool) to understand together their behavioural profiles, and personal and professional goals. \u201cThe trust created in those two days gave them wings.\u201d\nThe digital leadership team is 60 per cent women, and across the 48 digital staff, the percentage is higher, 66 per cent.\nShe points out in the 2017 Mahuki (business accelerator programme) participants, a third of the founders were Maori and Pasifika, and 38 percent in the 2017 cohort were female. \n\u201cDiversity is critical to good decision-making.\u201d\n \u201cI have learned the hard way that you can set the perfect strategy, but you absolutely must bring people along with you.\nInclusive leadership\nFirth believes bringing everyone along for the journey is critical as Te Papa steps up to the digital era.\nFirth says the digital team works with their counterparts in the other units to immerse them in digital practices that can be applied to other types of work. \u201cFor example, we are about to adopt lean business model canvas for opportunity evaluation for all product development at Te Papa including exhibitions; and regular stand-ups have become wide-spread across functions to speed team collaboration.\u201d \nEvery time the group delivers a new digital platform or product, they produce a blog for the intranet to explain the benefits. \n\u201cWhen you\u2019ve been in a digital or technology career your entire professional life, it trains you to feel comfortable with regular, ever-changing technology cycles and to approach the resulting opportunities and challenges without fear,\u201d she says.\n\u201cSo it\u2019s easy to forget that innovation, transformation and change feels very uncomfortable for a lot of people.\u201d\nShe cites how Denise Chapman Weston, current Edmund Hillary Fellow, inventor, psychologist, and theme-park designer, designs her location-based entertainment experiences not for the enthusiasts but for the \u201carm-pretzlers\u201d (the bystanders with their arms folded).\n\u201cI have learned the hard way that you can set the perfect strategy, but you absolutely must bring people along with you,\u201d she adds.\n\u201cA good portion of that is putting time into the framing conversations that prepare people to approach the exploration of potentially uncomfortable insights with a growth mindset that can grasp an opportunity to reach potential, rather than a fixed mindset that perceives threat and assumes a defensive position. It\u2019s about making people feel comfortable to participate. It\u2019s time-consuming, but essential. \n\u201cIt\u2019s true, culture trumps strategy,\u201d she concludes.