Are we preparing for the "Apocalypse" or the "Storm"?
I recently had the opportunity to engage with some amazingly talented and passionate association leaders in a co-creation event called Association Charrette. (You can find more about it here!) During the time together, the collective group was engrossed in various conversations that impact the current and future state of the associations we serve and our industry as a whole. While many topics stand out to me, the one that continues to echo in my mind is this idea that we are more focused on preparing for the apocalypse rather than the snow storm. You may be wondering what I’m talking about so let me expand on it.
Over the years we have heard statements as various trends and technology impact and disrupt the business models of associations. The first I remember is the impact of websites on the value that associations provide in delivering content and information. The next wave was social media is going to be the end of associations as it takes away our ability to connect people. Now we hear that we need to be more like Netflix or Amazon; people are no longer joiners, associations are going to end, and so on. We, within our industry, continue to echo these statements amongst ourselves and with our boards. As the group this past weekend identified and discussed, we tend to overreact and sensationalize the realities of what is happening to motivate ourselves and our boards into action.
In that discussion, we identified that associations have and can continue to provide value to the members and industries that they represent. History has shown that associations who lean into these new trends and technologies can adapt them to support the efforts of the association that translate into value and relevance. Where associations will find themselves in trouble is when they don’t pay attention to the signs as they impact the association or industry at any time. We tend to focus more on what happens if you don’t adapt to the signs rather than learning from those that do.
During that discussion, one of the participants made the connection of this entire discussion on if we as leaders are preparing more for the apocalypse (preventing the end of our associations) or if we should be more preparing for the snowstorm (adjusting our models and approach to meet the needs)? There was general we focus more on the apocalypse and instead should be focusing on the snowstorm while being mindful of a potential apocalypse.
So how can we begin to make this shift? We, as an industry, can and need to do better in highlighting how we are weathering these storms and coming out the other side better for our members. There are so many amazing things that peers in our industry are doing to evolve and remain relevant, and we don’t share it enough. We are good at sharing and celebrating the impressive and unique things we are doing. We can focus more on sharing the smaller, incremental changes that associations are doing in addition to the others we already celebrate. So what are you doing today to prepare for your next storm?