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Home > Article: How Associations Can Keep Up with Change, Change … And More Change

Article: How Associations Can Keep Up with Change, Change … And More Change

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Membership Management Report about some of the trends and issues that association executives should be thinking about. This came about after their online search discovered the Associations category of my blog. I’ve written a tremendous number of articles about the trends and issues that associations should be addressing as the professions, industries or people they represent under very fast paced changes in terms of skills, knowledge requirements and change. Here’s the article….

MemberManagementReport2013

How Associations Can Keep Up with Change, Change … And More Change By Dawn Wolfe While even the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus knew the only thing that is ever constant is change, the fact is, in today’s world, the changes are coming faster and more radically than ever before. What can membership associations do to stay alive and thrive in the midst of these challenges? “If I’m in a career that’s being impacted by huge rates of change, whether through technology or learning how to work with the new generation, I want to know how my association can help me deal with that,” says futurist, author and consultant Jim Carroll. According to Carroll, there are three main things associations need to think about to help their memberships professionally — and thus, stay alive:

  1. “Associations frequently do annual meetings and focus major efforts on them, but what about helping members cope with the changes that occur between meetings? To borrow from the Pink Floyd song, we need ‘short, sharp, shock(s)’ of knowledge,” Carroll advises. He adds it’s a good idea to create smaller, issue- focused events throughout the year. “We still need to do the annual events — for a lot of associations, that’s their bread and butter — but you also have to fill a smaller, more strategic role.”
  2. “The second thing,” Carroll continues, “is the speed at which the knowledge in different industries is changing. If you’re in health care — or think of banking: people’s cell phones are becoming their credit cards. I should be able to look to my professional association or chamber of commerce to help me deal with this new technology. Increasingly, your job should be supporting the generation of knowledge.”
  3. Finally, Carroll says associations should be actively looking at their relevance. “I’ve spoken to conference attendees and asked if their profession will even exist 10 years from now. This is really important — are you evolving to meet what’s coming?”

To stay relevant, Carroll advises his clients to, “Challenge yourself to do something different. I go to a lot of association events, and they’re just doing the usual. Are you really thinking through the strategic purpose of your events?” It’s also necessary for associations to rethink everything from the length and frequency of blog posts to how to structure their newsletters. “Everyone is blogging, so associations are blogging. They generally are blogging weekly, but changes are coming on a daily basis. Everything is happening faster, so you have to do things faster,” he says. In addition, Carroll cites the example of his 20-year-old son who “gets his news from Twitter. If you’re thinking the next generation is going to have the attention span to read a 500 to 1,000 word New York Times piece, or even your two-page association newsletter, that just isn’t going to happen.”

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