As a company that was founded to serve associations, we get a tremendous amount of value from attending ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference® each year. We’re there to listen, to learn and to find inspiration for tomorrow’s solutions. And this year did not disappoint.

With over 50 sessions spread across three days, there was a tremendous amount of ground covered—diverse topics providing lessons on leadership, growth, engagement and innovation. What’s interesting, however, is how well each and every session connected to one another, intertwined with three reverberating themes:

  1. Take what’s working and make the most of it
  2. Change what isn’t working
  3. Lead the change, don’t respond to it

You may already have everything you need for success. You just need to change how it’s packaged and delivered. Here’s an example of what this looks like specifically within the context of your educational content.

Many associations are already rich in educational content, but need help gaining visibility for that content to maintain your association’s place not just as a subject-matter authority, but as the source of truth for your industry. Some may think the solution is to create more content or more education programs when in fact your organization just needs to do a better job using what you already have.

Sounds easy, but the silo’d nature of associations actually makes this task extremely difficult.

What this can look like in practice:

  • Develop and execute an association-wide content strategy so that your educational content can be collected from your subject matter experts once, and leveraged across multiple departments, delivered in multiple formats, in a coordinated fashion. This type of content strategy can increase visibility for your association, raise your profile and help reinforce learning beyond a particular program
  • Develop learning programs that deliver the same content in multiple formats, based on how today (and tomorrow’s) members want to learn, such as micro-learning, social learning and binge-learning.
  • Structure your educational programs to facilitate engagement, conversation and collaboration to increase their value to your members. Change the role of your members from attendees to participants. Use your programs to facilitate the solving of problems and exploration of solutions, rather than as a delivery method for more content.

Change is hard. Actually, change is very, very hard. But, with an informed plan, a thoughtful approach and an open mind, positive change can happen, faster than you might think.

Whether you’re looking to reinvigorate your board, reinvent your membership or chapter model, remove internal obstacles or even change your own leadership style, it’s going to be difficult. Because our brains are programmed to resist change. Creating a path to change takes patience, persistence and flexibility. And more importantly, it requires us to be prepared to drop the proverbial ball at least a few times, learn from those mistakes, and adjust accordingly. Because any change, even by the most brilliant and talented person, requires practice before mastery.

What this can look like in practice:

  • Take time to identify the true cause and effect to make sure you’re trying to solve the right problem. Do your homework! Talk to your members, use your existing data, assess the industry landscape to make sure you understand what needs to change, and why. This makes it so much easier to formulate the “how”.
  • Create a people-centric, rather than task-centric change management plan to help your people understand, embrace and engage in the change before the specific tasks or processes are introduced. Answer the “why” before you talk about the “how.”
  • Break your change plan down into manageable steps, and focus on one thing at a time.

One of the few guarantees in life is that change is inevitable. And change is the most disruptive when it comes from the outside-in.

The world is not still. Social, economic and political climates ebb and flow. Technologies evolve. Demographics shift. Disasters happen. Every day, outside influences have the potential to re-shape your industry, and therefore re-shape the role of associations within that industry. If you’re finding yourself in a position where you need to react to the change, you’re too late. Chances are, your association has already become sluggish, and will have to play a fairly aggressive game of catch-up. This is not the most efficient way to operate. Associations will fare much better, remain more nimble and more relevant if they take steps today to build a “culture of foresight.”

What this can look like in practice:

  • Scan your environment on an ongoing basis. Consult with internal (your members) and external resources to identify changes and trends across all categories—social, technological, economic, environmental, political and demographic. Make it common practice to discuss the relevance and impact of these trends with your internal teams and with your members at regular intervals.
  • Look where everyone else is looking, then turn and look in the opposite direction to see what no one else is seeing, and whether there is real, measurable opportunity in that space, and what it would take to get there.
  • Purposefully pair unexpected combinations to “connect the dots” in a new way—to reinvent (a new product, service or delivery model) and redefine (the value you provide to members or what you do better than the competition).

So there you have it. Three days of incredible sessions distilled into three minutes, covering three key themes. We’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have anything to add? Are there other insightful topics you’d like to discuss? Let’s continue the conversation by sharing your comments here.

About Omnipress

Omnipress delivers educational content for associations and other organizations. Digital and print solutions for in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences and training programs.

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