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December 22, 2007

Sharepoint prediction for 2008

CMSWatch has published twelve drummers drumming. Sorry, I mean twelve predictions for 2008. One of these has to do with Sharepoint, which has experienced frenzied adoption by organizations since it came on the scene a few years ago.

Unfortunately, the field is still short on Sharepoint-smart consultants, and implementation can be expensive, due to the need for heavy customization. Since Sharepoint is a kind of Swiss army knife for collaborative tools, it can be more a razor edge than a honed tool, at least out of the box. Here's CMSWatch's prediction:

MOSS enters the valley of disappointment
SharePoint will continue to grow at viral rates as a low cost, low touch, document collaboration system. But in 2008 we will see the start of a noticeable backlash, particularly among larger enterprises.
The backlash will be two-fold. First larger enterprises will exhibit major compliance and litigation discovery issues across numerous unmanaged and unaccountable SharePoint locations. You will also see a backlash against sizable development costs and times to build maintainable applications in the MOSS environment. With the more complex SharePoint projects struggling to launch, customers are realizing a disconnect between Redmond's heavy promotion and the realities of a product that is significantly less out-of-the-box than most expect.

So, what do you think? Has Sharepoint installed and performed as advertised? Is it more trouble than worth? Or has it provided the expected ROI?

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December 21, 2007

See you in 2008!

Thank you for tuning into Acronym this year. This is the last day ASAE & The Center will be open this year, so Lisa and I are going to take it easy and stay away from the blog for a week or so. Our guest bloggers were told that we'd be unofficially shutting the blog down until next year, but I suppose if something really strikes their fancy nothing is stopping them from posting anyway.

So, again, thanks for reading, commenting, and making Acronym a successful place for dialog on associating today. Check back on the second of January... until then, Happy Holidays!


Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous...

Ripped directly from web/usability guru Jakob Nielson's weekly newsletter:

Summary: AJAX, rich Internet UIs, mashups, communities, and user-generated content often add more complexity than they're worth. They also divert design resources and prove (once again) that what's hyped is rarely what's most profitable.

The article is a goldmine of info related to Web 2.0 missteps and perils. Even as a social media junkies, we still need to be cognizant of where/what can go wrong, etc.

The link out to his previous article on "participation inequality" is of particular value in thinking about our members' level of engagement in all this stuff.

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December 19, 2007

Would your members miss you?

In a great post on the Beyond Certification blog, Mickie Rops mentions asking someone, "If you had NOT developed a certification program, would your field look any different than it does today?" She's talking specifically about certification, but I love the question on other levels, too.

- Look at your association's programs and services. If they didn't exist, would your profession or industry be affected? Would remembers notice? (There are few things more lowering to an association professional than hearing, "I just realized I hadn't heard from the association in six months, and I wanted to check and see if you had my address wrong ..." If they can go six months without missing you, are you really helping them at all?)

- Look at yourself. If you took off for Tahiti tomorrow (assuming you didn't do so via illicit use of association funds), would your organization be any different in a year? Three years? What would you have to do differently to make that kind of impact?

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December 18, 2007

Leveraging External Social Networks

Meatspace responsibilities got the better of me during November (eg, 10-day trip to Australia), and I wasn't able to get this post up during the chock-full-of-Web2.0-goodness spree last month... To add some practical examples, I'll quickly cover the IGDA's own foray into the use of social networking sites.

Given our techy nature, our first inclination was to simply expand upon our existing basic/custom member directory tech to include social network style features (ie, buddy list, post wall, intros, etc). But, we never got around to it... There was certainly the notion that we wanted to own/control the network for our members.

Around the same time, some members got vocal in our online discussion forum, convincing me to set up a private group in LinkedIn. Looking over the thread you can actually see me defending the idea of an IGDA specific internal social network, and then eventually watch me crumble under the pressure...

So, earlier this year, we set up a private group within LinkedIn - a fairly painless (and free) process. Once the group was set up, we mentioned it in our monthly email newsletter a couple of times. After a few months, we had over 1300 members within the group (of approx 14k total membership).

One of the benefits of LinkedIn is that it allows you to upload a list of members for pre-approved access to the private group (of course, there are other tools to add members on the fly, approve ad hoc requests for access, etc). Meaning, the association has control over who can gain access to the group, hence group members. Given the more serious business-like nature of LinkedIn, controlling access and the signal-to-noise ratio has been important and appreciated.

Also, this control over access has allowed the IGDA to leverage our LinkedIn private group as a benefit of membership. And, we've gotten several dozen new members (along with heaps of praise from existing members) simply so they can access the private group.

As the final wikinomic coup-de-grace, I recruited the most vocal member (ie, from the forum thread above) to serve as our volunteer "group manager". This person now handles any of the ad hoc requests along with any other admin/moderation tasks.

Now, in parallel to all this, a handful of other IGDA members were early Facebook adopters and set up an IGDA Facebook group without anyone on staff/leadership knowing about it. Really, I had no clue, until I got an invite to join the group (after the group already had about 1000 members)! This was not because they were trying to hide the group, but more so because they just didn't need us to do it.

Unlike the private LinkedIn group, the IGDA's Facebook group is an "open" group. With nearly 4000 people in that group, I have no clue how many are actual legit members of the IGDA. And, I don't care. Given the more relaxed/personal nature of Facebook, it is less important to maintain that some level of privacy as on LinkedIn.

Though, as an experiment, we did set up a private Facebook group just for the attendees of fall Leadership Forum conference...

And, all that said, we are still pursuing a social networking option that will reside at igda.org. More on that later...

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December 17, 2007

When a bad idea gets going

Early this year, I wrote a post on the notion that there absolutely are dumb ideas. The gist of the post was: get over it. If you don't have a bunch of bad ideas to sift through, then you haven't given yourself permission to actually try to think creatively about how you or your organization can innovate. I was saying bad ideas or ok, as long as you find some good ones to work on.

Now Shankar Vedatam from the Washington Post hits again on an insightful idea in his "Department of Human Behavior" column. He explores how bad ideas get rolling and develop lives of their own. His quote from Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University and the author of the book Irrational Exuberance, really made me think (sorry, don't know if the quote is from an interview or from the book):

"I am talking of views that seem intuitively right," Shiller said. "One hears other people saying things and confirming ideas you have. When things are commonly accepted, you file it in your brain as something that is true."

So here's the can of worms I'm opening today... I read this and I think about 7 Measures.

Now, assuming I still have a job after others in the organization read that, let me explain.

At one of the Great Ideas sessions I was at, the presenter made a point from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. I have no problem quoting from the lessons in that book. But the presenter praised the meticulous research of Collins for the purpose of underscoring how unapproachable and irrefutable the lesson is.

I encourage anybody who has ever read Built to Last, Good to Great, In Search of Excellence, 7 Measures of Success, or any of those books that study what really successful companies do right to read Phil Rosenzweig’s The Halo Effect... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers.

Rosenzweig’s argument in a nutshell—the research, while time-consuming, isn’t objective. Yes, it uses objective data to determine if an organization is successful, but when it comes to picking out the qualities of why they are successful, the research is much more subjective, relying in large part on interviews and press accounts. This may come as a huge shock, but people tend to talk favorably about successful companies, workers tend to be happier, and executives win awards and give well-thought-of speeches.

As Rosenzweig says, this doesn’t disprove the points that Collins makes or the measures uncovered in 7 Measures. It does, however, take them off the “indisputable” shelf. As a general rule, whenever anything is indisputable, I’d say be skeptical. It could very well be that following the tenants in Good to Great or 7 Measures or whatever management consultant/guru of the week espouses would be disastrous for your organization. Remember, Taylor’s scientific management was once common sense, too. I think a lot of good can be derived from Collins and 7 Measures, but success will always be more art than science. No step-by-step prescription or program will get you where you want to go. Try, feel, react, try, feel, react… that’s how to move forward.

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Dave explains it all

Dave Sabol of the Associated Knowledge blog has a great post up about advice for start-up companies and how it can apply to the association world. There's tons of food for thought--head over there to check it out!


December 14, 2007

Certification and wikis

David Gammel added a page to ASAE & The Center's Associapedia that other CAEs--and other organizations with certifications--might be interestedin . To help others with the age-old question of "How many hours can I put down on my recertification application for that conference?", he's started a wiki page for CAEs to keep track of how many CAE hours different events and activities are worth.

I haven't had a chance yet, but I'd like to go in and add specific dates for the events as well; I remember when I recertified (and when I applied to take the CAE exam) I spent a chunk of time searching online to find the dates of past meetings and conferences. Having that information easily accessible--and sharing it with other CAEs, to save them time--is a great use of a wiki.

For other associations with certifications, could a wiki be an easy place to maintain administrative information like this?


December 13, 2007

The Power of a Dog-gone Good Story

Wells Jones, CEO of the much-lauded Guide Dog Foundation, is a great storyteller. That's not a label many nonprofit leaders work hard for, but Wells has found that stories can get you places that appeals letters and political allies cannot: into people's wallet, mind and heart.

I was interviewing him recently after our Key Philanthropic Organizations Committee (KPOC) meeting, having already talked to him once before about his foundation's successful revision of its governance practices. We had spent a good chunk of the KPOC meeting talking about leadership, organizational excellence and the differences and synergies between our Seven Measures of Success book and a new publication, Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant.

We were all intrigued by the differences in data about leadership between these two books and even Good to Great's Jim Collins, who had been involved with both publications. One thing none of these books did, though, was explore in any real depth the types of communication techniques that great organizatonal leaders routinely find most effective: compelling storytelling.

So I asked Wells how he created the storytelling culture that is so apparent on his Web site and how his staff and volunteers collect and use those powerful anecdotes to show the real impact of the organization. You can read his responses in the profile department of ASAE & The Center's new philanthropic Web section, but in the meantime I wanted to share what he said was his favorite program-related story.

"This story relates to a Marine who lost both of his arms in Iraq above the elbow, so he wears two prosthetic arms," Wells said. "And he also has some balance issues. We trained one of our dogs to work with him to help provide balance, fetch items and do various tasks that the Marine needs to get done.

"So he’s outdoors with his dog one day, and they are having down time--he’s playing Frisbee with his dog--and when he throws the Frisbee, the dog brings it back, like all of our dogs do. But then one time when he throws the Frisbee, one of his arms goes with it. The dog goes over and looks at the Frisbee and then looks at the arm, looks at the Frisbee and looks at the arm. Finally, he makes up his mind and grabs the arm, which he takes back to the Marine. And the Marine is laughing really hard about this, thinking, 'What fun!' but then he realizes what the dog just did: The dog made a decision that his owner had to have the arm first before he could bring the Frisbee back. It’s a wonderful, wonderful story."

Now ask him to tell you the one about the two old-time war vets who have raised half a million bucks in just a few months....


December 11, 2007

Just say "no"

No great ideas here, just a good read.

In fact, there's one colleague of mine (and confirmed reader of this blog) who I know needs to read this article. Actually, I suspect all of us do. The article explores the question of why it is so hard for adults to say no, even when we want to or should. And now I have to put William Ury's The Power of a Positive No on my Christmas list.

And then I read the sidebar to this article and I realized something. When you do say "yes" just about all the time, it is noticed and respected. You may get teased about it behind your back (to my colleague -- don't worry, nobody teases you as far you know), but it's with admiration. And when I look at the sidebar, saying yes to those things is how you get ahead. And if you start off with a no, you don't get asked again, missing future opportunities. So anybody who thinks they're not getting the job/title/salary they are entitled to, start by asking yourself how often you get asked to do more than is expected--and how often you say "yes."

(And for the people who just can't say "no" -- read the article and bow out every now and then. As long as you have a "yes" track record, you'll still get asked in the future.)


Quick click: Facebook for association execs

I still have some posts from Great Ideas that I need to write, but I thought I'd get this post up first: Lee Aase, who kindly wrote an article for the Associations Now social media supplement to help readers better understand social media, has posted some material on how association executives can use Facebook. (He presented at the Chicago Forum's Holiday Showcase on the topic.)

If your association has ever wondered, "Should we be doing this Facebook thing?" Lee's two posts should be interesting reading.

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December 9, 2007

From Social Web Part 2 to Who Is In Charge

Dave Sabol here filling in for Maddie Grant who is en route back home.

Just a few points from two afternoon sessions that I think everyone can benefit from. In Andy Steggles session on the Social Web he went into detail on how RIMS and a number of other associations are pushing the envelope with their deployment of social media technology. I found his approach to technology and innovation, more than any specific message that he shared, particularly salient.

Instead of constantly going in search of the "next big thing" Andy has a really pragmatic approach that we can all learn from. Take a look at what bothers you and your members most about the technology you are using and try to improve on it from that perspective. Additionally, instead of trying to create new solutions in a vacuum take a look at what other industry leaders are doing and adapt their approach to fit your needs. For example, if you industry is looking into social networking instead of trying to "whitesheet" your solution take a look at what companies like MySpace and FaceBook are doing right (and wrong) and learn from their experiences. Instead of building from the ground-up consider what you can do to adapt/modify/change existing systems to work in a more effective way.

Most importantly, in today's attention economy consider your Return on Engagement (ROE) and what you can do to maximize your return on your users attention once you have obtained it. Make it easy for them to take action.

Later in the afternoon, Jamie Notter presented on "Who's In Charge" an offshoot of an article he wrote that was published in November's Assocations Now. My key take away (I'll leave the details to his article) was that we spend too much time communicating at either the high level - useless generalizations - and at the low level - the important discussion points get buried in the detail - and have a very difficult time communicating in between. Jamie had the attendees positing the question: "Where is the middle". The primary reason we avoid these conversations and subsequently being unable to answer the question: who is in charge is because the conversations are difficult and we avoid them. The bottom line: constantly challenge your assumptions and judgments, strive to have the difficult conversations and most importantly remember that real communication, and ultimately change, results over time not as the result of one conversation.

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For the second year in a row, Rhea Blanken is running a creativity room – full of toys and games and activities for adults to reach inside to their inner creativity.

One of the stations was a toy grill labeled the “Sacred Cow BBQ,” where attendees were invited to write down the cows they’d love to slay, skewer them, and throw them on the barbie. Here are a few things that were on the grill:

Too many meetings
No diversity on the board
Closed-down management
HR policies
Membership directory


Level 5 dilemma

Rob Parker’s 2-minute take on Jim Collins’ Level 5 Leadership:

It’s a mix of humility and professional will, not charisma and dazzling personality. Level 5 leaders accept responsibility when things go wrong and give others credit for success. And level 5 leaders set up their successors for even greater success.

And Parker orginal insight: unfortunately one of our biggest challenges is that boards of directors and executive search firms do not look for level 5 leaders; they look for charismatic, dazzling leaders… “And it’s unfortunate.”


Two questions on leadership development

Two other questions that were raised at the session on "Building a Leadership Stream":

- Is courage a leadership characteristic? The best data and best discussion at the board level won't get you anywhere if your board won't make tough choices--choices that could alienate some of their closest colleagues or a vocal group within the membership. How do you find potential board leaders with the courage to make those hard decisions?

- How do you balance the need to find competent, strategic board leaders with the need to be inclusive? Some associations hate to turn away enthusiastic volunteers--even if they really don't have the skills or mindset to contribute positively to the organization. Some just place a high value on being as inclusive as possible. What do you do when your interest in being inclusive conflicts with your need to put the right people on the bus (to use the Good to Great terminology)?


How to act in a crowd

Live blogging from Kiwanis International CEO Rob Parker's "High-Impact Leadership"...

Here's his ice breaker to start the session:

Everyone was given this scenario: you're at an evening function for work and you're the most important person there, and you need to meet other important people. Then he had has introduce ourselves to others in the room.

He stopped us and switched the scenario: you're at a family reunion, but it's not the cumbersome type, these are great, great people that you love to see. One of them give a kidney so your sister kid live--those kinds of people. Now go greet people.

The point of the ice breaker, other than being an ice breaker: you do better and you feel better in a room when your frame of mind is that the other people there are more important to you.


Preparing volunteer leaders

There was some great discussion in the "Building a Strong Leadership Stream" session this morning--enough for a couple of blog posts!

One of the case studies presented was interesting to me because of the formal, planned development path this particular association has created for their volunteers with an interest in leadership and potentially board service. One of the elements of the leadership path that were mentioned was "robust committees." I found this to be interesting--to see service on a robust, active committee as a preparation for board service. In associations where I've worked, committees are typically very tactical--right down in the weeds, doing detail-oriented work. Then volunteers who excelled in committee work move directly into board service--where they are asked to be strategic, high level, and stay out of the weeds.

Can we really find great strategic leaders by looking at our best tactical volunteers? Or do associations need to offer strategic work for other groups of volunteers, to let potential leaders learn by doing before they actually take on responsibility for the direction of the entire organization?

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It's hard to avoid the box

Skip down to the previous post for a more general idea of Wilny Audain's general session presentation. But I wanted to point out the one place he lost me.

One of the more dynamic parts of his presentation was in talking about differences in some groups of people. Gender differences for example: men speak in bullets, women speak in paragraphs; men work with singular focus; women multitask. He did the same thing with generations.

These are some of things that drive me crazy. I think that it can be helpful to understand these broad generalizations, but on individual levels, the broad notions completely break down, to the point of being almost worthless.

Now he won me back with his statement that you can't put people in boxes, that we are each individuals. But I didn't have a chance after the presentation to reconcile the two. Maybe I'll try to get him to comment on it, because the two parts of his presentation seem in direct contrast to me.

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Understanding diversity

Wilny Audain gave an energetic and warming general session at Great Ideas on understanding diversity. Seriously, based on nothing more than his presentation, he’s the kind of guy you just want to fold neatly and put in your hip pocket to take out when you need a moment to change your outlook from glum to happy, from challenge to opportunity. He seemed happy and genuine, and it was infectious.

I don’t how much I got out of his presentation—more a reinforcement, I suppose than anything else – though I was left with one big uneasy question I’ll put in my next post. But in this one, I’ll list a few of the reinforcements, by way of his acrostic description of failure and success in communication.

We experience a failure in communication when we:

F – fear: most people have communication problems because of fear: fear of how they will be perceived, fear of not understanding, fear of not looking like they want to look.

A – assumptions: don’t make assumptions about people. Ask them instead.

I – insensitivity: it’s easy to be insensitive about what you don’t know. Resist the urge to tease or make fun, whether or not the subject of your insensitivity is there or not.

L – labeling: it’s a natural human tendency to put people in boxes. People will never fit in the box you’re trying to put them in. We, each of us, is an individual.

U – uncertainty: meaning being uncertain about yourself, not understanding your own heritage and why you are the way you are.

R – resentment: it’s too common to be resentful of people who are not like you just because they are not like you. You put someone in a box and then decide you don’t like the whole box.

E – ego: you might think your culture is the best culture—or is superior to other cultures for this reason or that. The fact is, all cultures are best and none are superior to others.

To achieve success in communication, you need:

S – self-awareness: be aware of who you are and be aware of how you come across to other people.

U – understanding: if you want another culture to understand you, your first step is to understand them.

C – care: people don’t care how much you know until you show how much you care.

C – control of self: when people are pushing your buttons, you must have self-control. There are some cultures you may not like, and that’s ok. But respect the differences and know the difference between disagreeing and attacking.

E – esteem for self: you have to be able to love yourself before you can love someone else. We reflect (and see) who we are.

S – self-confidence: it makes a difference when you walk into a room. Be confident about who you are—not superior—but be yourself and like what you are.

S – sharing: be willing to share yourself with others.

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Social reponsibility at breakfast

Susan Sarfati, CEO of the Center for Association Leadership, is discussing ASAE & The Center's social responsibility initiative over breakfast this morning at Great Ideas. One the first things she told the group is that this initiative isn't ASAE & The Center setting down what we believe social responsibility to be and what we think associations should be doing about it; instead, she says, the initiative is intended to facilitate ways for the association community to co-create an agenda for social responsibility in our work.

For instance, the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, April 30-May 2, won't be just a series of speakers telling attendees about social responsibility. The Summit is intended to be a place where discussion will take place among attendees--and ASAE & The Center is hoping to bring together a truly inclusive group of attendees for that discussion, including representatives from trade, professional, and philanthropic associations, industry partners, association board members, experienced association professionals and those new to the community, older people and younger, academics, media representatives, representatives from corporations that have successfully implemented social responsibility in their own organizations, and more.

The Summit will take connect multiple sites around the United States and the world--Robin Lokerman, CEO of the Institutional Division of MCI, said just now that his company alone will host sites in 10 countries. One site will even go live a month in advance to include individuals who can't necessarily participate on the dates of the Summit.

The discussion will follow the techniques of appreciative inquiry, starting with strengths and building on those strengths to innovate and develop strategies for social responsibility.

Goals of the Summit include:

- Share strengths and celebrate successes
- Make the case for social responsibility
- Identify the unique competency and capacity that associations bring to social responsibility and how they can be effectively leveraged
- Identifying opportunities that the association world can uniquely respond to
- Generate and articulate guiding principles for associations in social responsibility

The Summit would create the world's largest social responsibility agenda, when you take into account the 280 million members of our members and the trades, professions, and industries associations represent.

For more information on the Global Summit, visit ASAE & The Center's website.


December 8, 2007

Advice for the wanna be CEO

The dynamic Tangie Newborn, CEO of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, led the song dance of “Wanna Be CEOs”. Literally, she had her session attendees singing and dancing, well, kind of… as well as a hodge podge of association senior staffers will do in the last session of the afternoon.

As she answered questions and led participants through the maze of how to get themselves CEO-ready, here were a few of the more memorable/useful moments:

How do you get these experiences if you can’t get them in the job you have now?

“Volunteer.” (Don’t worry, those who know Tangie know there’s not many one-word answers, so take it while you can get it.)

But something like media training—how do you get that experience?

“Take training and education on it. Do research. Look for models.

“Your company is sending you here, but they don’t have to know each and every session you go to. Get in a session on media and communications. If you’re a marketing manager, don’t go to the marketing sessions. You know how to do your job. Go to the CEO sessions or the finance sessions. If you’re weak in an area, go to those sessions. Your CEO doesn’t have to know.”

Other advice and sayings:

“Go to board meetings. As much as you can be a staff liaison to a board committee go with it. Run with it. Interact with the board as much as you can. And you need to go in there with a different mindset. Go in and see the hard time they’re giving the CEO or the chair. See how the board challenges the CEO. Have some fun.”

“Sometimes I still go to sleep” – said to someone who said that she gets sleepy at board meetings when the directors talk about investment strategies.

“Can all that you can can – that’s what my grandmother always said. Find out what you don’t know, and go learn it.”

“I don’t know a thing about lobbying, but I know how to hire a lobbyist.”

“When I go in front of that selection committee, I’m selling Tangie. I’m going out with a Tangie case -- you know one of those oldtime traveling salesman suitcases -- and I’m selling that case. And I’m doing it with authority.”


Whine and cheese

In Larry Johnson's session on "Absolute Honesty," we're wrestling with issues surrounding honesty--why it's important in an organization and how to express the truth effectively and with tact. One thing Larry is emphasizing is the importance of being proactive--tackling problems rather than just avoiding them.

Larry just told us, "If all you do is tell me why [an idea] won't work, that's not proactivity, that's whining." Then he asked, "What should you bring me with that whine?"

From the back of the room, someone shouted: "Cheese!"

Humor aside, Larry suggests that we have three choices when faced with something unpleasant: Proactivity, acceptance of the situation, or leaving. But grumbling or complaining isn't a healthy alternative.

Is there anything you're grumbling about in your work that you should be trying to change?


Be a customer

Here's the no-brainer idea that has to also be the most under-utilized technique in an executive's arsenal: be a customer.

The idea comes courtesy of Ellipsis Partners' Rebecca Breeden in her "Extending Your Meeting: Before, During and After" session.

She advised attendees to go to other conferences as an attendee so you know what it's like for your members. You can try to think like an attendee or put yourself in your members' shoes, but you can't quite replace an actual experience. Find out the things that surprise and delight you -- then think about how you can emulate it. Find out what annoys you, and think about how your members may get annoyed at your meeting.

(And just as an aside -- a few minutes ago, Breeden asked those who did blogs at their conferences to raise their hands. Kind of a surreal experience, I didn't raise my hand because I was typing this post.)


Changing faces of membership

Below is a slide from the Great Ideas lab "Membership Models of Associating from Outside Organizations" by Diane James and Paul Pomerantz. I'm presenting it because I'm not sure how I feel about it. One attendee made an excellent point. James and Pomerantz used the context of their 2005 Journal of Association Leadership article "New Models of Associating" (may be members only) to point out the rapid and massive growth of the Willow Creek Community Church and the communities centered around the magazine Fast Company. The attendee's point: that's two case studies that are successful, there are probably hundreds of thousands of case studies of things that didn't work.

But on to the slide...

It depicts characteristics of traditional associations on one side and characteristics of new, developing communities on the other. I think in the past, I would have accepted this slide without question, but now I wonder if traditional associations have in fact moved closer to some of the developing models. And I'm pretty sure that I think the new models are little more like traditional associations than this slide presents--these communities take leaders to drive it. So, here's the slide... what do you think?


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Hey Lisa, two more tips from Cufaude

"Don't make Play-doh a big deal."
Cufaude talked about creative props used in brainstorming sessions. As he described it, you can't just say, "OK, take out the Play-doh and sculpt your vision for the organization." Instead, use things like Play-doh and crayons to help people mix up their mental space to be prepared think in new ways.

"Get on the 'Brandwagon.'"
Cufaude offered some facilitator tools for broadening discussions and advancing an idea. One of those tools was to ask "How would Starbucks do it?" or "How would Disney do it?" or How would [insert any brand here] do it?

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Ideas on idea generation

A bunch of interesting suggestions from Jeffrey Cufaude's "Beyond Brainstorming" session:

- Don't put meeting attendees under pressure to have fun. Not everyone has fun in the same way.

- Make sure there is time for introverts to share their ideas too--having time where everyone writes their ideas on index cards instead of saying them aloud is one way to do this.

- Have a symbolic "coat check" where everyone can check their negative attitudes or their traditional thinking.

- Think about how you personally can contribute your strengths to the meeting in ways that don't end the conversation. For instance, if you tend to have a lot of ideas and dominate the conversation, turn some of your ideas into questions that could lead to others contributing their thoughts.

- Idea generation should be ongoing, not just something we do on Tuesday from 3-4 pm.

- When holding an idea generating meeting with all members of the staff and the full board, one association tried to defuse the hierarchy by creating "nametags" for everyone with photos of him or her as a baby. It emphasized that everyone was equal--they were all babies once--and symbolically put them in the mindset of a brand-new learner.

- "If we only talk about what's desireable, nothing cool is ever going to happen."--Jeffrey Cufaude

- If you try to gather ideas online, it helps to give everyone a requirement--for instance, everyone must log in for 15 minutes each week and contribute ideas. If you leave it open-ended, you may find that no one makes the time to log in.

- Behavior is a function of people interacting with their environment--look at the people you have and build an environment that will help them to be creative and generate ideas.

- Watch the rhythm of your session--balance all-out, high-energy idea generation with time for the group to catch its breath. A whole day of all-out brainstorming can be as boring as running on a treadmill.

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Snowball fight!

Jeffrey Cufaude just opened his session with a fun idea: He asked all of us to ball up a piece of paper into "snowball" and, when we experience an "a-ha!" or takeaway moment, to throw it at him. What a fun way for a facilitator to get feedback on how a presentation is going, and to get attendees engaged and laughing right from the start.


Person-on-the-street market research

In the session on ideas gleaned from associations' market research experiences, the presenters talked about how an association gathered market data from nonmembers while they waited in line at a professional event.

It's a great reminder of the importance of constantly gathering feedback from constituents and people you want to be your constituents.

Whether it's staff soliciting informal feedback on a trade show floor or a formal market research project, associations have be sponges, soaking up both qualitative and quantitative data to make informed decisions.

If someone asked you about your members' most pressing on-the-job challenges, what would you say? Would your members agree with you?


GIC: Live Blog 3 - Saturday morning

I was invited to attend a breakfast discussion this morning on The Association of The Future. Led by Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Ventures, we were asked,

1) how do you currently consider the way in which future trends (e.g. demographic, economic, and competitive) might impact your organization?
2) How can we [ASAE] make our futures trend information intellectually and practically accessible to you and your organization?
3) How can we balance online delivery with other possible delivery methods?

Among other things, we discussed “ROE” – return on engagement – namely, how do you measure, or develop metrics for, or just pay attention to how your members are engaged, beyond just the traditional ROI? Could ASAE provide more benchmarking tools so we could measure our own associations against similar others?

I think everyone should be thinking about these questions and telling ASAE what you think, so they can deliver the best data, training, networking opportunities, etc. for us. I am glad they are asking.

We also discussed how to enable strategic thinking and strategic discussion throughout all levels of an organization. The reason I want to mention this, in particular, is that I experienced an example of how this is NOT happening right now.

After breakfast, Jamie Notter, Dave Sabol and I headed over to the session on The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. In the schedule, this was highlighted, and I was very interested in hearing about Stephen Covey’s concept of ‘trust theory” as laid out in his book The Speed of Trust. But, five minutes into it, the three of us got kicked out because we are not CEO’s. So annoyed. Isn’t the speed of trust about trust between CEO’s and staff???

Let me tell you something. Having CEO-only sessions is fine. I have no problem with that, and once I am one (!) I am sure I will enjoy hanging out with other CEO's and sharing issues. They should be appropriately marked as such, in the schedule, duh. However – here's the clincher - this stuff does NOT trickle down to those of us actually doing the work of the association. Staff at all levels of the organization should be enabled and supported to be the strategic thinkers that we already are. Great ideas generally do NOT come from the Board or CEO – they approve, ratify, approve budgets for great ideas to happen, but I can pretty much guarantee that most great ideas come from mid-level staff. Enable strategic thinking! Don’t shut us out.

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Another lesson from webinars

More live blogging...

Another point Richard Finstein made that really hit home is the difference between being a content leader on a webinar and being a content leader in front of a face-to-face audience. It hit home because I was wholly unprepared for it the first time I was a content leader on a webinar.

The way Finstein put it is that you are utterly isolated. The presenter is speaking into a phone, probably from a quiet office. There is no feedback, no smiles or droopy eyelids, no seat-shifting, no chatter. It is a surreal experience.

I can tell you from my first-hand experience, it was unsettling. Finstein's tip -- even if you have a presentation pro as your content leader, if they haven't done a webinar a rehearsal is more than essential.

Ok, Finstein's getting ready to wrap up, so I better go pay attention.

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Live blogging - webinar session at Great Ideas

I'm in the middle of the session right now, but here's one takeaway from this session:

According to CommPartners’ Richard Finstein, the leader of this morning’s Great Ideas session on web seminars, the way most organization’s screw up webinars: not planning an experience.

“They don’t plan their success. They don’t script their program,” he says. “How am I going to plan interaction? How am I going to seed my audience so there’s participation? How do I build energy into the program? If you don’t build energy into the program, then just don’t do it.”

In the opening general session, Bruce Turkel asked everyone who was an artist to raise their hand. Ten hands out of more than 500 people went up. He then said that if you ask the question in front of a class of first-graders just about every hand shoots up. In third grade it’s about half. By fourth or fifth grade it’s a few—these are the children who have been told by others that they are artists.

As Turkel says, we’re all artists. We all create. And that’s exactly what Finstein is talking about. You have to choreograph a webinar or it will fall flat. You have to imagine the experience your users are going to have—and then reimagine, adding “energy” as Finstein puts it.


Finding Fred

In the "Leadership for the Future" session, Jody Shelton is describing the skills and attributes of great leaders, and she mentioned a book I hadn't heard of that sounds quite interesting: The Fred Factor. "Fred" was a postal worker who would introduce himself to people who moved into homes on his route, welcome them, and offer to collect their extra mail and save it for them if they traveled for an extended time. He made a great impression on the author of The Fred Factor.

Jody shared some questions you could ask during an interview to find out if potential employees are "Freds":

- Who are your heroes and why?
- Tell me three things that would delight most customers.
- What's the coolest thing that's ever happened to you as a customer?

I've never asked these questions in an interview, but I might try it the next time I'm hiring.

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When the status quo is not really status quo

In the CEO session on trust in governance, Lois Schoenbrun from the American Academy of Optometry related the experience of her organization wrestling with the decision of whether or not to combine annual meetings with their larger competing association. Financially, it looked like it would make sense. She said her membership was split right down the middle—with plenty of people on both sides willing to tell you their position loud and clear.

Ultimately she and her board decided against the idea. They decided that their show was perhaps the most important part of their brand, and it was something they needed to keep.

I’ll admit my first reaction was negative because it sounded like a decision to keep the status quo. But then I thought about it more and that’s too harsh of an assessment. Deciding not to do something can be very important, and does not mean you are turning your back on ideas or innovation. The key, and I’m sure the academy is doing this, is to not rest. Just because they decided not to take that step doesn’t mean that they’re not trying to take other steps that will improve their meeting and their organization.


December 7, 2007

About ethics

This afternoon, I dropped in on the Idea Lab "Are You as Ethical as You Think You Are?" There was a lot of interesting discussion, and presenters Jennifer Baker and Mary Ghikas kept attendees thinking and asking tough questions.

At one point during the session, someone said, "Ethical behavior typically goes unremarked." At first, I agreed, but the more I think about it, the more I think that's not quite true. Admittedly, we're never going to see weeks of front-page stories about ethical behavior--"Association executive does the right thing!"--but I think ethical behavior is remarked upon, if only subconsciously, by the staff and volunteers around you. If your association tolerates unethical behavior, staff will start to step back from true engagement. They'll focus on covering themselves and making sure they have a paper trail to back up each decision rather than on proactively moving their work forward. They'll expect to be treated badly and focus on defending themselves rather than helping others. And eventually they'll leave.

It comes down to trust, and as Mary Ghikas said during the session, "The critical precondition for trust is ethics."


Ideas can't be wasted

Scott, Angie, and Maddie have already posted about this afternoon's opening general session at Great Ideas, and I don't want to repeat what they said. But one thing Bruce Turkel said really hit home for me:

"You don't have to use ideas!"

I love that. I think a lot of people can sit silently in a meeting because they feel like they don't have ideas that are "good enough to use." Trying to come up with a perfectly formed idea with attached complete business plan, they end up not suggesting any ideas at all.

Bruce's comment is a good reminder to stop concentrating on the perfect and open yourself up to the half-baked. Give yourself permission to go with the flow of ideas. Some are usable, some aren't. Some may not be usable now, but they will be in a year, or they will lead to a second idea that will work.

Give yourself permission to come up with new ideas! Remember, they don't all have to be "good enough"--they just have to be yours.

Jeffrey Cufaude just said what I said in this entry, but better: "You have to get into the mindset of just contributing ideas to advance the conversation."


GIC: Live Blog 2 - Friday afternoon sessions

Bruce Turkel’s opening session rocked, I thought, but it was my sort of thing – he’s a lively speaker, uses visual aids and music. His concept about great ideas is that just like all music is made of the same seven notes (do, re, mi…), “creativity and artistry, great ideas are NOT about creating something new from scratch, they are about taking old things and looking at them differently”. I dig it. Also, ideas don’t have to be used – the act of fishing is more important than catching fish (“otherwise it would be called catching”!). When they come – in the shower, while driving - embrace your ideas! Write them down. They never come when you want them, but when you least expect them.

He then gave each of us our own little black harmonica. I thought that was a stellar way to start a conference!

Some stats I learned – the Great Ideas Conference started in 2005. This year, there are 500 attendees from all 50 states plus London, Canada, Singapore, and China. 35% of attendees were there for the first one in 2005 – which I think says a lot!

After the general session, I attended a great session on wikis presented by Jeff De Cagna. I won’t summarize it here, I don’t think that’s what people necessarily want to read, but I may do a post later on about it on my own blog (sorry about the shameless plug – I am shameless!) because I really think my association would benefit from setting up a wiki and I think I’ll need to figure out the best way to do that. But, I have something totally unrelated to report, which is that we actually had all five “independent thinkers” in the room, of We have Always Done It That Way fame! Jeff let it slip that a second edition of their fabulous book is in the works. So look out for that in due course. And in the meantime, I was lucky enough to be the first person to get all five signatures in my copy of the book, which means that I won the chance to have dinner with the group tomorrow night! Score! But suffice it to say that they are all here at the conference, and the book is available to buy in the ASAE bookstore I believe, and it is a really awesome book so everyone should buy one and get their signatures.

So I am now off to the welcome reception, and signing off until tomorrow.

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The recipe for massive failure

Greg Balestrero, CEO of the Project Management Institute, started the special CEO track of idea labs at the Great Ideas Conference, framing the series around trust. Because of his association, he sees or hears about plenty of project failures. Massive failures. Ten billion dollar failures.

He reported that the reason those massive projects fail is that they lose their sponsorship. Whoever champions the idea moves on before seeing it through or perhaps is an expert at championing ideas, but not so hot with following through to the execution.

Either way, when the champion fails, trust takes a tumble and then the blame game starts. The catch is, it's not just true for massive failures. As Balestrero said, trust is established through action--and that's an everyday proposition.


Purple book of "great ideas"

For my birthday, a close friend gave me a small handmade book. She's a constant note-writer. In fact, every time she leaves for a business trip, she pens short notes to her children and husband, but she doesn't give the notes to them. Until recently, she hid them in her jewelry box. Now she writes them in "little pretty books." She's deep.

Several years ago, on her 30th birthday, she spent three hours on the floor "remembering." She went through her whole life--year by year, everything she could remember. She's encouraged me to do the same. I'm not sure I have three hours between deadlines! But that's a conversation for another day...

So I've started writing in my little handmade book, which has become the home for my "great ideas." My mind kept returning to my little book this afternoon as Bruce Turkel spoke in the Great Ideas General Session. "We all have the same tools," he said, for coming up with great ideas. Unfortunately, great ideas don't always come when you want them. You can't just coax them out by sheer will. The trick, he says, is to keep trying again. Be ready to catch that idea when it comes falling out of the sky, whether you're in the shower, in the car, cooking, whatever.

That's where my pretty little purple book has come in handy. I seem to find my great ideas on the way to work after dropping off my kids at school. I'm not necessarily advocating writing while driving, but that's what I've been doing--capturing my "great ideas," my mediocre ones, and the ones that seem quite ridiculous upon later inspection, and recording them before they're lost in the shuffle of publication deadlines, consulting projects, meetings, and family responsibilities.
Some of those ideas will be used, some won't. But what matters is that I still have some. I'm expecting to capture several over the next couple of days.


General Session -- Ideas aren't that hard

What does one of the most revered classical composers in the 18th century have in common with an obscure (at least to most mainstream music fans) blues musician from Vicksburg, Mississippi?

As today’s Great Ideas opening general session speaker Bruce Turkel says, they used the same seven notes in their compositions—the only seven notes.

He was referring to Johann Sebastian Bach and Sonny Boy Williamson. The point of the comparison, and the point of his whole presentation, really, is that ideas aren’t hard and they aren’t new.

People think coming up with an idea is hard because they think it’s coming up with something entirely from scratch. The point of the musicians is, it’s not about coming up with something entirely new, it’s taking old stuff (seven notes) and combining them in new ways to create something new.

His session, aside from making me think of a bad Bruce Willis concert (sorry, you had to be there, then you would have been part of the first ever Great Ideas Great Harmonica Rock Band), made me think back to a whole bunch of articles I’ve been a part of through the years. Tonight I hope to have time to go back and find some do a post on these articles that have formed my ideas about, well, ideas.


Great Ideas: Strategies for Promoting Blogging in Your Association

I'm a huge advocate for blogging tools as anyone which has listened to one of my presentations will tell you. It's an incredible opportunity to engage members. I was pleasantly surprised recently to receive an email from Lisa Junker from ASAE & The Center asking me to guest blog while at the Great Ideas conference (what a Great Idea!). While I'm under no illusion this was most likely a personalize blast email to all speakers (that's what I would have done), I am none-the-less compelled and honored to take up the challenge. Lisa's strategy was simple, yet very effective.

While this is my first blog entry, a couple of questions/concerns immediately jump to mind which should be considered as part of any blog launching strategy:

1. Are access restrictions imposed on the blog entries? (is it member's only or open to the public?)

When considering permissions, the above two options are usually the only options associations consider. I would challenge any association to think a little more broadly and allow the person posting the blog to select their permissions. For example, if this blog entry was bashing vendors, I might want to restrict who can view it somehow. Usually however, I would want the blog entry open to the whole world - specifically the search engines.

Blogs are a tool in which members can build their own brand and recognize immediate ROI from their membership dollars. Ben Martin a good friend of mine recently took a job at the Virginia Association of Realtors. He’s blog was a key contributor towards being offered this new position as he had clearly built his brand which had established him as an expert in the social web arena. Same goes for Maddie Grant, another great association blogger with tremendous vision who unfortunately for her current association is bound to be snapped up by a larger association with more opportunities.

So why is opening the blog to the search engines so important to me? Two key driving factors to higher organic positioning (organic = not paid links, natural placement) in the SERPs (SERPs = search engine results pages) and relevant, inbound links. Blogs give us both of these. People will link to the blog (mostly other bloggers) and the combination of the blog and the associated comments make sure a nice chunk of unique text which is a huge traffic driver and a great way to capture more of the long tail (email me if you don't know the story of the long tail).

As a side note, if you want to check out how unique your content is, try copying it into www.copytester.com and evaluate the text (Full disclosure: I built and own that site – it’s free though – just a fun tool).

2. Can any member blog at any time or is this just for the conference?
I haven't really looked around yet, but I sincerely hope ASAE & The Center is offering all its members a chance to blog. If not, why not? It's such an easy win as far as member benefits are concerned. My only warning is not to send members off to a free site like blogger.com or wordpress.com as the association loses all control as well as a huge potential member benefit.
Although 95% of people are likely to blog and leave it open to the world, the reality is that members will have a higher level of access than none members. This in turn means we have another member benefit. The other more important member benefit is that you can really start building your own brand through your association by using its blogging platform. It's such a win-win, it's a no-brainer. I dare anyone to argue to the contrary (please, if I’m missing something, let me know!)

3. Has the association added "Blog This!" links all over its website?
Why would they do that I hear you ask? Assuming all members have the ability to blog on the ASAE & The Center website, we all have a great new member benefit (as long as we use it). With the right blog launch strategy, it can easily turn into a huge success.

One way of being proactive and instantly cross marketing different parts of your site is to add a "Blog This!" icon next to all key pieces of content (magazine, conference sessions, course titles, daily news, listserv postings, committee newsletters etc.) The idea is to make it really, really simple for people to blog. One click to blog about anything. The blog automatically knows which piece of content it is referencing and will automatically link to it and tag it. The member blog will automatically appear in the "Latest Blog Postings" (known as a blogroll) on the home page. It will also be embedded in the users much more dynamic profile page (they will have their own "Latest Blogs" built into their profile).

This is such a natural way of cross marketing, in some respects it is too obvious - as well as easy to do. RIMS is in the process of launching its social web platform from www.higherlogic.com which I know will be a tremendous success. We are also tying it into our eGroups and Resource Library tools which allows us to receive the (nicely formatted) listserv emails with linked attachments and prompts us to blog about the postings or the attachments. Since some listservs are confidential, in this instance the blogs inherit the same access permissions of the listserv (eGroups) - although normally we allow members to choose the access permissions to each one of their blog postings.

If ASAE & The Center emailed you (what looked like) a personal note, asking you to add a short blog about a course you recently attended or a webinar you listened in to, wouldn't you be compelled to do it? After you do, you'll have a great sense of satisfaction which will mostly likely start you thinking along the lines of "What can I blog about next?"


Andy Steggles
Chief Information Officer
Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)

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Great Ideas Conference: LiveBlog 1 - Arrival in Orlando

Thank you to ASAE for inviting me to be a guest “live-blogger” for the Great Ideas Conference in Orlando this weekend. I have never been to Great Ideas before, nor to Florida, so I thought I’d try and give Acronym readers a little play-by-play taste of what the conference is like from my first-timer perspective, particularly for the benefit of those who could not make it south this year.

So I arrived last night, with family in tow (hubby Andy: au pair Nussara; Jackson, who will be five on Tuesday; and baby girl Bohannon, who is 21 months). First thing I noticed – time seems to have no meaning down here. Plane landed at 10:40 pm – we got in to our room at almost 2 am. What’s up with that? The half hour bus ride took FOREVER. Checking in took forever. Breakfast this morning took forever!! But having said that, our hotel room at the Yacht Club Resort is really fabulous – I swear it’s bigger than the footprint of my house. The bathroom is huge and has real marble tiles and an awesome shower. And the weather is perfect!! Which leads me to the second thing I noticed – palm trees and warm weather paired with Christmas trees in the airport and hotel lobby is truly surreal. There were three inches of snow on the ground and the world was white when I left DC; and now here I am in Orlando, getting the bathing suits out.

So the family went off to the Magic Kingdom, and meanwhile, I am chilling out this morning and arranging via text message to meet up with some ASAE buddies, particularly those I have not seen since we met in Chicago at the annual meeting last year. I am so psyched to see them – one thing ASAE enables is Friends For Life. That is a fact! And it overrides everything.

The general session starts at 2 pm with Bruce Turkel, CEO of the Miami brand building consultancy TURKEL, described as a “creative guru” who “constantly pushes the envelope” and “believes that the real trick is not just coming up with ideas but recognizing them, developing them, and making the most of them”. Turkel’s website is wicked cool – check it out here. I’m psyched to hear him speak.

This afternoon, I plan to go hang out in Jeff De Cagna’s session on “The Wonderful World of Wikis: Supporting Innovation and Collaboration at Web Speed”. I’d love to get a wiki started for my association, but need to know how to help my members get over their fear of all things technological! : )

Then, looks like there’s a welcome reception this evening. So that’s the schedule for today – will of course report back as the day goes on.


December 6, 2007

Great ideas from other people

In the spirit of Great Ideas, I wanted to pass along a few cool ideas I've come across recently:

- Awards for failure. Sometimes we learn more from failure than from success--but nobody ever seems to recognize failures in a public way (other than negatively). The Wharton School is actually honoring great failures as part of its new "Competing in a Flat World" awards program. The program, intended to recognize the best strategies for succeeding in a flat world, will award two prizes--one for the best successful strategies and one for the best insights from failure.

- Great ideas from Tom Peters. Tom Peters, who seems to always be full of new ideas, has posted 50 "have yous" on his blog--as in, "Have you visited a customer in the last 10 days?" or "Have you thanked a frontline employee for carrying around a great attitude today?" There's some wonderful nuggets of wisdom in his list--I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

- Going viral. According to a recent report by Horowitz Associates, about 61% of Internet users download online video content at least once a week and 86% do so monthly. Could your profession or industry's stories be told through video? If it's something you're considering, these tips from a viral video marketer might help you create a video that really goes places. (Some of his tips may not sit well with everyone; the author did a follow-up post as well to address some concerns commenters raised about his first post.)

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Heading to Great Ideas

I'm in the airport, waiting to board the plane to Orlando for Great Ideas. I'm looking forward to it--I've never been before as either an ASAE & The Center staff person or a member.

Even if you're not going, I hope you'll stay tuned to Acronym. We have some great guest bloggers who will be sharing their thoughts throughout the conference, and of course Scott and I will be posting as well.

Here's my first idea, before I even get to the same state as the conference: More electrical plugs at airport gates! I'm sitting with about eight other laptop users, all huddled around four plugs placed closely together in one row. We're all bonding over our addiction to e-mail, but just think how much airlines could improve the average business traveler's experience with more comfortable places to plug in (and perhaps free wireless?).

Perhaps at your association's next meeting or conference, you could wander around and see if there are places where members are clustering to an uncomfortable degree (around the coffee station, the internet cafe, or perhaps something else). Could you find ways to open up access to whatever that thing is, and improve their conference experience?

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