What will it take for associations to thrive over the next decade and beyond?
For the last several years, I have been asking this question of the audiences attending my public sessions, as well as the board members, CEOs and other key contributors who participate in client workshops. In this post, I want to begin sharing some high-level answers.
The popular opinion in associations today holds relevance as the strategic endgame that will secure the future. The powerful and relentless forces of societal transformation, however, make relevance a losing argument. Instead, association decision-makers must focus their energy and attention on thrivability, and specifically on overcoming two existential threats: resistance and risk.
To build their organizations to thrive over the next decade and beyond, association decision-makers must demonstrate genuine resolve in minimizing the influence of internal resistance to transformation and minimizing the impact of external risk on innovation.
Minimizing the Influence of Internal Resistance
Resistance takes many forms, from outright opposition to new thinking to the more subtle yet insidious inertia that can bring the work of organizational transformation to a complete standstill. To overcome the influence of internal resistance, association decision-makers must embrace three imperatives:
1. Resilience for Growth--We will stop listening to the noise of the past. We will start listening to the signals of the future.
2. Responsibility for Stewardship--We will stop enabling board underperformance. We will start demanding board excellence.
3. Resources for Investment--We will stop thinking analog in a digital world. We will start investing in platforms to create value.
Minimizing the Impact of External Risk
Risk certainly exists in today's environment, but as highly conservative legacy organizations, associations are often more concerned about perceptions of risk around innovation than the realities. To overcome the impact of external risk, association decision-makers must embrace three imperatives:
1. Realism for Action--We will start putting our stakeholders first. We will stop putting our membership numbers first.
2. Readiness for Learning--We will start building the future around learning. We will stop believing we already know enough.
3. Relationships for Collaboration--We will start harnessing the power of networks. We will stop erecting barriers to keep people out.
Speaking on The Association Thrivability Manifesto at #ASAE15
I will be speaking on The Association Thrivability Manifesto during my session on "The Six Rs of Association Thrivability" on Sunday, August 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm in Cobo Center Room 360 during ASAE's 2015 Annual Meeting (#ASAE15) in Detroit.
In addition, I will conduct an informal follow-up conversation on this topic on Monday, August 10, 2015 at 10:30 am in the Small Staff Lounge (Cobo Center Room 140C). Many thanks to Small Staff Lounge sponsor MemberClicks for letting me use the space.
Let's get the conversation started! Please share your ideas and reactions in the comments below.