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November 30, 2006

Google shutters Answers

They lost.

On Tuesday, Google announced that their Google Answers product would be shut down after attracting a mere 800 users. Many are speculating that Google's version of an Answers product was doomed from the start because of the fee attached to using the service, of which Google took a small percentage. On the other hand, Yahoo!Answers, a free product, has attracted 60 million users.

In some corners, chatter is bubbling up that the better of the two services lost. Why? Because the answers at Google Answers were provided by real experts, not laymen. But anyone can post an answer at Yahoo!Answers. On the web, it looks like free trumps quality -- for now, anyway.

Does this extend to association work? You bet it does. One of my main take-aways is that members may be developing even less tolerance for middleman tactics, like taking a cut of a fee between buyer and seller.

What can you apply to your work from this story?

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November 27, 2006

Too many choices

I recently picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink again to refresh my memory about a certain topic. (If you haven’t read Blink yet, I highly recommend it.) Leafing though the pages, I noticed a story about researcher Sheena Iyengar, who conducted an experiment to see how customers would react to having more choices.

Iyengar set up a tasting booth in a grocery store with a variety of gourmet jams. Sometimes the booth had six jams, and other times it had 24. As Gladwell says, “Conventional economic wisdom, of course, says that the more choices consumers have, the more likely they are to buy, because it is easier for consumers to find the jam that perfectly fits their needs. But Iyengar found the opposite to be true. Thirty percent of those who stopped by the six-choice booth ended up buying some jam, while only three percent of those who stopped by the bigger booth bought anything.”

As Gladwell concludes, too many choices can actually hinder the decision to buy.

How does this bit of information fit in with the trend toward unbundling association services? Are people more likely to make a decision when offered one choice (“Join now and be a member of our association!”) or many (“Join now and choose among these 30 association benefits!”). People want personalized service, but can things get too personalized, too fragmented, so that potential members feel overwhelmed rather than welcomed?

I would argue that the best way to square this circle is to look at your menu of benefits and pare it down. If you’re offering so many choices that people could feel overwhelmed, I bet some of those options aren’t directly related to your core purpose. Being all things to all people is not only impossible—it could even prevent new members from coming on board.

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FREE MobileActive Strategy Guide

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The first installment in MobileActive’s Strategy Guide series, Mobile Phones in Electoral and Voter Registration Campaigns, is now available to download.

The guide examines successful ways that organizations have used mobile phones in electoral and voter registration campaigns and shares lessons learned from these experiments. The guide also offers case studies and other information organizations can use to run their own mobile campaigns.

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November 22, 2006

Podcasts gaining in popularity

New research released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that there are almost 50% more podcast downloaders today as there were in February 2006. Men are almost twice as likely to download podcasts as women.

A significant data point for me is that there doesn't seem to be much difference in the ages of those who are downloading podcasts. In fact, those aged 50-64 were the fastest-growing age bracket for the period February - August 2006. People aged 18-29 still lead the category, with 14% overall downloading podcasts, but those aged 30-49 and 50-64 are both holding their own at 12%.

A common objection to podcasting is "our members won't listen." Well, it's obvious they're listening to something!

Another interesting finding from the February-April survey, against which this most recent study was compared, is 20% of American adults and 26% of internet users report ownership of an iPod or MP3 player. This figure has certainly grown since April, and will grow by leaps and bounds over the holiday giving season.

Podcasts are becoming mainstream. Check out Jeff De Cagna's Social Media Tracking Wiki for a list of known association-produced podcasts.

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Crowdsourcing

The latest issue of Wired magazine features an article on Chevy’s experimentation with consumer-generated ad campaigns, a technique known as crowdsourcing.

Combined with an episode of The Apprentice, the results were astounding, but at a price. “On its own Web site, the Tahoe now stood accused of everything but running down the Pillsbury Doughboy.”

“At first, everyone assumed it was just another case of a big corporation not "getting it" about the Internet. Then, when the ads weren't yanked down immediately, they figured Chevy was too clueless even to notice what was happening on its own site. Only gradually did it dawn on people that Chevy had no intention of removing the attack ads.”

Chevy’s ad agency exec Ed Dilworth said, "You can either stay in the bunker, or you can jump out there and try to participate."

Instead of the usual member-get-a-member campaign, what if you sponsored a contest asking visitors to create their own membership ad on your website?

Odds are you would tell the next generation they are welcome and you would get some powerful messages about belonging, replacing those tedious lists of benefits.

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November 21, 2006

One to say yes

I’m going to share an advance tidbit from the 2007 Leadership Issue of Associations Now with you: In a feature story, William C. Taylor, co-author of Mavericks at Work, shares an anecdote about Commerce Bank. Apparently Commerce has a number of idiosyncratic terms and sayings—to the extent that they provide new employees with a specialized “Commerce Lingo” dictionary.

One term that struck me as particularly powerful is “One to Say Yes, Two to Say No.” In other words, every employee is empowered to say yes to a customer, but to say no, the employee must first check with his or her supervisor.

This slogan was still in my mind when I came upon this interesting story in Seth Godin’s blog, about an airline crew’s efforts to reduce their passengers’ misery while waiting for an extended flight delay to end. The crew decided to order pizza for the whole plane (and since delivery isn’t available on a runway, one crew member volunteered to go pick up the pizzas). Once the food arrived, everyone from the captain to the flight attendants came out to serve the passengers. I'd be willing to bet that this extra effort on the part of the crew was a very pleasant surprise for everyone on board.

Many association staff members may have ideas that could turn a member’s whole day around. But if they don’t feel empowered to act on their inspirations—if you have a “two to say yes” culture, or worse, a “committee to say yes” culture—those ideas will never get off the ground.

And I’d bet the staff member who does get to act on his or her idea, and sees the positive reaction, will be that much more motivated to act again to improve members’ experiences in the future.

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November 20, 2006

My answers to three questions

Jeff De Cagna asks three questions in a recent blog post. Here are my answers:

1. What are you learning about the future that excites you?

Though I hate the term, I'd have to say it's Web 2.0 and all that is emerging in social online connectivity. This is as profound a shift as having a world of reference information at your fingertips.

2. What are you learning about the future that concerns you?

I am concerned about the membership model of associations. Let's consider the 80/20 rule. While the percentages may not be right for your organization, I'd guess most associations have some kind of 80/20 split happening, where 20 percent of members make up 80 percent of the participation (it wouldn't surprise me a bit if many associations had a 90/10 rule; 10 percent of members make up 90 percent of participation). It used to be that the 80 percent not participating very much were still association joiners. I think the era of instant information has begun to change that. And the rise of Web 2.0 social connectivity lets people drift in and out of participation more easily than association membership does. I am also concerned that Web 2.0 social connectivity will peel off chunks of the 20 percent that do participate, as they can create their own environments when they formerly needed the association's logistical support.

3. Are you motivated more by the excitement or the concern?

Jeff makes this point about the last question: "If you’re motivated more by the concern, you probably prefer to play it safe. If you’re motivated by the excitement, you probably want to innovate."

My two answers seem to be intertwined quite a bit, but if I had to choose one, I'd guess it's my motivation around the concern that is fueling the excitement. Almost no one would rather be described as "safe" rather than "innovative," so I'm hoping that I'm an exception to his last statement. Many of my thoughts on the matter seem anything but safe—up to and including my own job security.

For example, I think one possible good and successful outcome to all of this might be forgetting the current notion of membership. I propose that the two traditional metrics we use to measure the success of membership are flawed. The two are number of members and retention rate. The metrics I care about have to include member participation. I don't care about the 80 percent. I'll take their dues dollars, but I'm much more interested in 20 percent of participators. The metrics that matter to me are the number of members participating and the retention of those participating. By casting my net narrowly on this 20 percent I think I lose a lot of the 80 percent. Obviously I'd expect this approach to transform some of the 80 percent into the engaged 20 percent, but I could only hope for a little of such growth.

The upside to this approach is you get more people more involved. I think content and quality improve, and the mission of serving the industry or profession is better served. The downside, of course, is that even though dues as a percent of total income has been declining for most associations for quite some time, dues is a huge chunk of revenue. I don't think the improved content and quality necessarily make up that revenue, either. As a result, a lot of products and services—and the people who manage them—that are developed to attract the 80 percent go away.

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November 17, 2006

An open forum

In recent entry on the Face2Face blog, Sue Pelletier links to several new websites that provide opportunities for any individual to post information, comments, or feedback about conferences and meetings—much like Amazon’s customer review system. Confabb is a good example if you’d like to check one out.

I would guess that most associations do some kind of attendee survey either during or after their major meetings. But it’s not likely that most associations will post those attendee comments for the world to see (except for the really good ones, which might make an appearance in future marketing materials).

What effect would it have if your association used Confabb or a similar system to solicit open feedback about a recent or upcoming meeting? Would it improve the experience for attendees? Would it allow you to proactively fix problems in an upcoming (or ongoing) event? Would it let you have real dialogue with attendees who had negative experiences, instead of just hearing about their concerns after the fact?

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WeAreSmarterThanMe.org

Traditionally, associations had a competitive advantage over commercial publishers because they represent both the content experts (authors) and the buyers (members). Plus, association publications could be road-tested and peer-reviewed, representing best practices if not the industry standard.

If that's your niche, hold on to your hat.

In case you missed the story in the Wall Street Journal Online edition earlier this week, London-based publisher Pearson is teaming up with Wharton and MIT's Sloan School to create a business book authored and edited by a "wiki" online community. More than 1,000 have already signed up.

The book will be called We Are Smarter Than Me. "One goal of the WeAreSmarter project," the online WSJ reports, "is to see how a wiki can organize and balance material provided by experts such as consultants and professors and managers who are using the techniques in their own business."

Like the nonprofit online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, this effort distills the wisdom of many, scrubbing out personal opinion through community-enforced rules.

Fans of James Surowiecki's 2004 best seller, The Wisdom of Crowds, will recognize the shift from forecasting to best practice.

Are you harnessing the wisdom of many to revolutionize your publication program?


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November 16, 2006

The world loves a challenge

Thousands of economists and other stats geeks have been spending hours and hours helping Netflix improve its movie-suggestion algorithms. Netflix is offering a million dollar reward to the first person (or team) to reach a 10% improvement. They're giving interested parties 100 million ratings (more than 700mb of information) from their own database to test their theories. (The Freakonomics authors have written on it in their blog a couple of times: 1 & 2).

If you mix in some creativity with a dash of inspiration, I'd think you could steal this idea. Here are the essential elements: offer a distinct and hard challenge (it doesn't have to be as quantifiable as Netflix's), open up your resources that can aid those interested, and come up with an incentive that will be valuable to your audience (or a niche of your audience).

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November 15, 2006

What's good for economies is good for governance

A more exhaustive companion to Mapping the Future of Your Association is Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. Exhaustive couldn't be a more appropriate word to describe it, because at nearly 600 pages, this marathon of nonfiction delves deeply into trends that are shaping our global community. I'm in the home stretch to finish this book in the next couple of days, but I had an interesting revelation about a similarity between economies and governance after finishing up a chapter last night:

Being open is good for both.

Economic protectionism actually has the opposite effect it intends to produce, but open economies engender trust in foreign investors. While both countries previously manipulated their currencies and erected barriers to trade, Friedman argues that the opening of the Indian and Chinese economies in the past 30 years has rushed these two nations on to the global stage. It has happened in a matter of just a few decades because, thanks primarily to technology, the world is getting flatter by the minute.

As I read those passages, I couldn't help but think about a discussion I had in a virtual community early this year about the importance of transparency. The Scrutiny trend, identified in Mapping the Future of Your Association, prompted many participants in the discussion to conclude that mere compliance with public disclosure laws was no longer good enough. Full disclosure, or extreme openness, is becoming the norm. In other words, an open economy yields a higher GDP; an open governance structure yields a more trusting membership. A membership that trusts is a membership that engages. And don't we all want engaged members?

What does open governance mean to you? One association allows any member to nominate himself, herself, or another person for the board of directors right over the Internet. Another discloses all the "perks" given to its board members. Still another publishes its audited financial statements in its magazine. And yet another publishes its full 990 just two clicks from its home page.

What does your association need to expose to the daylight this year? Don't presume to know the answer. If you're brave enough, ask some members, "Is there anything you don't understand about how we operate?" Ask a volunteer, "As someone who knows the ropes, what are some things we don't communicate about so well?" The answers to these questions will help you figure out where you need open up.

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November 14, 2006

The power of PR

I've long been a believer in the importance of public relations for associations. For trades, it would seem to be a major reason for their existence, especially as it is tied to government relations (the more important your industry is perceived by the public, the more important it will be perceived by government officials). Member education likely trumps PR in most professional societies, but in so far as the missions of these organizations usually point to the profession as a whole, PR is important. For both, it has the potential to increase membership roles, increase clout, and increase the sale of all products and services offered by the association.

I’m often surprised at the lack of attention PR gets in associations. There are many exceptions to this, of course; many of the food industry associations have really strong efforts, and the American Chemical Society comes to mind. But even for associations with large staffs, PR is often relegated to a single staff position and a measly budget.

I have a theory that I’d love to test out, but when I think about the sheer amount of research needed to pull it off I push the idea pretty far down on the old article list. The theory is this: If a CEO truly embraces the importance of PR, then the organizations he or she leads will be more successful. To research it would mean looking at CEOs who have led at least 2 or 3 different organizations. Develop criteria to measure “truly embracing the importance of PR,” such as increased PR budgets/staff, increased PR activities, and the organizational mindset and culture about the industries or professions they serve. Then, see how the organization has fared overall across some quantitative and qualitative objectives, such as membership numbers, budget, government relations goals met and the ambitiousness of those goals. Finally, look for possible explanations other than the PR focus.

Fortunately, I’m not an academic, so my research could end there. I’d think academics would want to look at a control group of CEOs and see how they have fared on the same metrics. In any event, while I think the research would be fascinating, and you should never say never, I can’t imagine ever going to that length. I’m afraid it will have to remain a hunch and, whenever in the appropriate discussions, I’ll push for the increase of PR activity.

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November 13, 2006

Getting it wrong 100 percent of the time

This morning’s Washington Post includes an article about the airline flight with the worst on-time performance in the United States during the month of September. This particular flight, from New York to Washington, DC, was late 100 percent of the time.

It’s difficult to be consistent in any area 100 percent of the time. Now, of course, the lateness of a particular flight is affected by dozens of factors outside of the control of the flight crew—weather, crowding on runways, delays on other flights. And certainly any product or service you provide for your members will be affected by just as many outside influences.

But perhaps (to add to the ongoing conversation about celebrating failure), if something is consistently going wrong at your association, there’s a way to take some element of that consistency and turn it into a strength.

For example: Say you are having difficulty publishing books due to member reviewers’ extensive and repeated changes to manuscripts. While timeliness is a problem, clearly you have volunteers with passion for the subject matter and a willingness to contribute a great deal of their time to ensure that a publication is the best it can be. To capitalize on that passion while setting aside the issue of timeliness, you could consider transforming the books into wikis—making the material available in a timely manner while also allowing your member reviewers to put in as much time as they think is necessary to polish and update the information.

Consistency is an element of greatness—as long as you harness it correctly.

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November 10, 2006

Counter-Americanism to diminish?

I have a relative (by marriage) who is an American citizen living in Turkey. Ever since September 11, 2001, he has been writing essays on American foreign policy, and emailing them to his entire address book. His essays have have been not too kind. In the years since Operation Iraqi Freedom, his essays have become more and more critical of American foreign affairs. His most recent essay, which I received yesterday, was entitled "Thank You," a gesture of appreciation to American voters who ousted the Republican majority on Tuesday. His glee over the change in leadership at the Capitol is not at all uncommon.

Perhaps the most difficult to address trend identified in Mapping the Future of Your Association, ASAE & The Center's most recent environmental scan, was the Counter-Americanism trend. I led a 16-week online exploration of the eight super-trends identified in the study, as well as helped to lead a session on five of the super-trends at ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting in Boston last summer. In all of my reading and discussing with colleagues about the super-trends, nobody had any concrete suggestions on ways to defend their association against, or take advantage of, the Counter-Americanism super-trend. The only apparent solution was to change our government.

Today, a few days after the election which has seen the balance of power in our legislative branch shift dramatically, I can only hope that our predicament changes for the better. While the election falls short of a full regime change, I will be very interested to see how the international reaction will manifest itself. Will Counter-Americanism wane?

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November 9, 2006

Advocacy 2.0: Start your own talk radio station

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Have you ever felt like if you just had the vehicle to explain your advocacy agenda to your members and the public - one on one - that you could convince them how important your issues were? Just start your own talk radio station.

Your BlogShow lets you host your own talk show online for FREE. You can receive live callers, interview guests and broadcast to an unlimited number of listeners. All you need is any type of phone, an internet connection and something to say. All your listeners need is Windows Media Player to listen or any type of phone should they choose to call in.

Once you start your own BlogShow, you have a FREE Host Page where you can post contact information and upcoming shows. (Only one show per day is allowed. That's the only restriction.)

You can receive as many live callers as you want during your blogshow segment FREE OF CHARGE. However, you can only have up to five simultaneous live callers. The rest will wait in a queue.

BlogTalkRadio will record all shows and archive them for you in MP3 and Podcast formats for FREE. You and your listeners will have the option to download and/or stream them from your Host Channel page. You also have the ability to delete your show from your archives (because it will still be searchable and accessible from the Host Channel page) or edit its tags and description in the case that the show went in a different direction than expected.

And did I mention that it's FREE?

(One of the very favorite words of we with very little budgets!) ;)

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November 8, 2006

7 Measures and small associations

I have been traveling across the country recently presenting the results of ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s recently completed major research project: 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t. It was my honor to chair that project.

One of the questions I continue to receive from audiences is “How do the findings of the study apply to small associations? All the associations in the study were large organizations.”

We note in the book that our findings are very consistent with the literature on systems and learning organizations. Most of the organizations with which I work in my consulting practice have budgets of $3,000,000 or less. My experience with such associations and my understanding of systems research tells me that the principles that make large organizations remarkable holds true for smaller organizations.

Why didn’t we include smaller organizations in our study? The reasons relate to practical considerations. First, we used a jurying process to identify remarkable associations. Larger associations are more likely to be widely known than smaller ones. It would be very difficult for most association CEOs to identify five outstanding small associations–not because such organizations are non-existent–but because they are not widely known.

The other challenge in including smaller associations involves time. We asked each participating organization to provide us with 15 years of data on a whole host of issues including finances, strategic plans, products and serves, board minutes, etc. The process generated over 100 boxes of materials from 18 organizations. Few small associations could afford the staff time to generate such a large amount of data.

As I discuss the question further with those who raise it, I find that they agree that the principles we uncovered apply to their situation as well. What they really are seeking are examples of how associations with their staff size and budget can put these principles into practice.

I welcome – in fact – I encourage all of you to share your experiences with assessing and implementing the 7 principles. All of us would benefit greatly.

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November 7, 2006

The failure challenge

On the Association Renewal blog, Jamie Notter pulls Peter O'Neil's recent Acronym post into an ongoing minidiscussion from several different bloggers on taking action and taking risks.

A short history of the discussion follows: Jeff De Cagna questions the language used in an Associations Now article. Ben Martin and I clarify/defend the language that Jeff questions. Jamie weighs in (and again), and I leave a comment on his blog.

Finally, Jamie nicely pulls in Peter's post on lessons he saw in a Cirque du Soleil show, specifically latching on to "risky moves, when flubbed, were always celebrated," boiling it down to "celebrating failure."

Let me give a brief scenario: An organization plans an education session and budgets for 150 to participate. A grand total of 15 sign up. The organization had planned to make $5,000 and instead loses $10,000. Why in the world would you celebrate that failure?

I think most organizations would do one of two things. The dysfunctional organization is immediately going to start pointing fingers. "Marketing didn't reach the right people," or "The program topic wasn't worth marketing," or "The meetings folks booked a terrible venue." I call it the blame game, and it's a culture I've been in before and let me tell you, everybody gets bloody.

Most associations would probably call the failed education session a "learning opportunity." They learned something about the market, the place, the marketing tactics, the topic, etc. That's probably true, but I'd label this the approach of the mediocre organization.

I like Jamie's post a lot. Celebrating wrong is very difficult, but exceptional organizations will do it anyway. What is there to celebrate about the failed education session? Maybe the 15 members who came left with a new outlook that makes them and their organizations stronger. Maybe it was an edgy topic that was just a little bit too edgy, but it was worth a shot. Maybe it was a new format or approach that was worth a shot. The chances are, if you can't come up with reason to celebrate the failure, then you probably do work for a mediocre organization—or at least it had a very mediocre moment.

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Guest blogger Michael Gallery

I'm thrilled to introduce another guest blogger: Michael Gallery, Ph.D., CAE. Mick is founder and president of Opis Consulting in Highland Village, Texas, which was preceded by a long and distinguished career as an association executive, including 14 years as COO of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

He's also had a long and distinguished volunteer career with ASAE & The Center and is currently a member of The Center for Association Leadership Board of Directors. Notably, he was the chair of the Measures of Success project, which resulted in the ASAE bestseller 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don't and he has previously served as the chair of the CAE Commission. He became an ASAE Fellow in 1989.

Please welcome Mick. His first post has been ready to go for a little while, so it will be coming shortly.

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Inspirational quotes?

On the spine of Associations Now, we print a sentence or phrase from inside the issue. The quote is not intended to portend the contents of the issue so much as stand on its own as thought provoker. Here's a list of the first year's quotes... how are we doing? Do you have a favorite?

"Outstanding product and service development is nothing less than survival training."
Michael Basch, cofounder of FedEx
October 2005

"Trust is crucial. I don't think you can lead smart, talented, rich, and powerful people unless they trust you."
Jeswald Salacuse, author of Leading Leaders
November 2005

"Marketing is not a department nor a person but a mindset."
Philip Kotler, Northwestern professor and author of many books
December 2005

"Forget realistic goals. Overachievers focus on what's possible, not what's probable."
John Eliot, author of Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance
January 2006

"Everyone in your organization has unique experiences that may contribute to developing your next great idea."
David Silverstein, author of Insourcing Innovation
February 2006

"Be bold. ... You want people to get in there and get their hands dirty."
Jimbo Wales, founder Wikipedia
March 2006

"During a crisis, my third command was always to put on the kettle. If the skipper wants a cup of tea, it can't be that bad."
Simon Walker, yachting captain
April 2006

"People are not stupid ... so if the frame is not seen as valid in the eyes of the electorate or consumers, it's going to be rejected."
Paul Begala, political consultant
May 2006

"When working with the board, what's said is important, but what's left unsaid is critical."
Peter Wacht, senior director of National Court Reporters Association quoting Sue Wolk, former CEO of AIIM
June 2006

"One of the most successful marketing campaigns ever, Got Milk?, was born of desperation."
Jeff Manning, former executive director of California Milk Processor Board
July 2006

"You don't shy or runaway from chaos. You actually revel in it."
Kevin Carroll. author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball
August 2006

"Stop being nice."
Dick Grote, author of Discipline Without Punishment
September 2006

"I don't do maintenance. By definition, maintenance is the status quo."
Cynthia Mills, CAE, president and CEO of Tree Care Industry Association
October 2006

"Good leaders have a nuanced insight about how to assemble power and use it."
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
November 2006

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November 6, 2006

Lessons From Cirque du Soleil

I had the opportunity to see Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo performance in Washington, DC this week. As always, Cirque’s creative team has put together an incredible event that combines art, artistry, physical acts that look humanly impossible to pull off, and so much more. As I watched the performance I recalled Lyn Heward's, former president of creative content for Cirque, comments during the Monday opening session at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting in Boston. In short, Lyn said that Cirque hires with the idea of total team in mind, not just the individual talents of the person or troupe auditioning.

With Lyn’s words in mind, here is what I saw during Corteo:

- everyone, and no one, was the star – simultaneously

- no job was too big or too small for anyone on the stage

- body language was the primary means of communication for each troupe, with eyes set firmly upon one another – yet, at the same time, their feet and hands were constantly moving, readjusting to ensure they were prepared for the next move

- small wins were celebrated by everyone

- risky moves, when flubbed, were always celebrated

How many of us work in – or work to create – an environment every day wherein we encourage everyone to fail –and celebrate the failure? Or where the staff and volunteers act in such outstanding concert with one another that only eye contact and subtle moves of the hands and feet are needed to perform amazing “acts?” How many of encourage others – or even ourselves – to take great risks, fail, celebrate, and try again? Imagine if we all worked in – or worked to create – just such organizations.

Something to think about.

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November 4, 2006

Truth to Power

Unable to disguise what I think--my face gives me away even across a room--I avoid playing poker and have carved out a role telling truth to power. After all, if you can't fix it, feature it.

To improve our game, we all need honest feedback, me included. Yet how often do we invite it or seek it out?

One method to guarantee that those of us in management don't take ourselves too seriously is to visit Despair.com, the specialists in demotivation. The posters and calendars are classic satire, poking fun at those motivational tools you see in airline magazines and skewering B-School pretensions.

I dare you not to see yourself in one of the Self-Narrative video podcasts , such as Principles of Organizational Storytelling. Like the Emmy Awarding winning show, "The Office," it will make you squirm.

Don't write this off as simple-minded office humor. It might just be what your team thinks you need .

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November 3, 2006

More new bloggers

Please welcome another new, guest blogger: Ann Oliveri, CAE, senior vice president for strategic development for The Urban Land Institute. Like Peter, our other new blogger, she also has been involved with ASAE & The Center in many ways, including as a charter member of the Marketing Section Council in the mid 1990s. She currently serves on the Journal of Association Leadership Editorial Advisory Board. She was also named an ASAE & The Center Fellow in 2006 and is the author of the blog The Zen of Associations.

Ann is also one of those unique people, very creative and curious. She's a joy to talk to, and I highly recommend searching for her last name on ASAE & The Center's website and reading some of her writings. And check back here.

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Perception is Reality

I have been following with interest the student protests at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. This situation has come in to the national spotlight after the Board of Directors of this world renowned institution of higher learning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing promoted its current Provost, Jane K. Fernandes, to President effective January 2007. For anyone who has followed the story, you know that ever since this announcement of Dr. Fernandes’ promotion, students and faculty have protested, shutting down (or nearly so) the campus for quite some time because they felt that the selection process was biased, unfair, and non-inclusive.

As I watched this situation unfold in the news, I could not help but wonder how many of us have totally inclusive, transparent decision-making processes within our organizations? How many organizations among us could see our Boards’ major decisions completely overturned by a majority or even minority of the membership because the process followed, if any, was not perceived as fair -- or worse, was fair but was not communicated well?

I think as association leaders that we have a greater obligation than others to model the way toward inclusivity and transparency in the decision-making processes of our organizations. We also have an obligation greater than most to ensure that we develop and implement effective communications plans that reach all impacted stakeholder groups in the organizations that we serve to talk about the decisions that our leaders make and why.

Fail to be inclusive, transparent, and communicate effectively – and you run the risk of your membership staging a coup similar to that which the faculty and students at Gallaudet University just did.

Something to think about.

For a link to more information, please click on the following URL:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/30/AR2006103000374.html

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November 2, 2006

New guest blogger

It is my pleasure to introduce our newest guest blogger, Peter O'Neil, CAE. Peter is assistant executive director with the American Industrial Hygiene Society based in Fairfax, Virginia. He will be well known to many association people as he has served ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership in a variety of ways over the years. He currently serves on The Center for Association Leadership Board of Directors. He was also named an ASAE & The Center Fellow earlier this year.

I've only just started to get to know Peter over the last three years or so and just based on the conversations we've had, I can't wait to see his contributions to this blog. His first post should be coming soon.

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November 1, 2006

Airplanes and hospitals

It's ingenous when you think about it. I was sucked in by the headline: "What Pilots Can Teach Hospitals About Patient Safety." It's a New York Times article from yesterday and it talks about how the same strategies that keep planes from slamming into each other as they land, take off, and taxi to and from gates can save lives in the similarly chaotic environment of a large hospital.

So what connections are you missing when you keep your nose buried in the profession or trade that your association serves? Conversely, what lessons from outside your core audience have you shared with your membership recently? I'd love to hear about it.

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