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ASSOCIATION TRANSFORMATION

The Power of being an Innovative Leader

We spend a lot of time talking about strategy planning - it's what we do for a living.

We work in an industry globally that exists in one way or another to foster safe environments for innovation, with an increasing expectation that your membership body, the professional should and can provide that safe space for creativity, the sharing ideas and problems, along with finding innovative solutions.

Yet there is an increasing frustration with the willingness at association level for organisations to be innovative. Is this down to just a natural aversion to risk or natural aversion to innovation?

Innovation comes from the members first, and over the years there have been opportunities to work with some amazing organisations, allowing us to see this in practice. Whether it be in the healthcare field or in construction and infrastructure - working with members who are saving lives and pushing new approaches and new solutions to medicine, to members who are building bridges and huge infrastructure. Yet, on the association side, we push the status quo. There is a disconnect between what members are capable of and what they are pushing each other to achieve, versus what the association is doing.

Obviously, while you can be evolving, you can't be constantly in a state of revolution all the time, you've got to have business as usual.

But there is an increasing concern that as companies start to work out post pandemic strategic plans for the next 5 - 10 years, and as they begin to redefine or renew the purpose of their organisations, some associations are going to become increasingly irrelevant to the members.

So, what do we mean by innovation within association terms? It means embracing opportunity to do things and to deliver our membership services differently, and arguably to enhance the value and impact of our membership services. 

However, the lack of innovation can be a symptom of other problems. Whether it's about the ability to embrace technology, or it's about the lack of resources, human or financial, lack of innovation can be a more telling story as to why it's happening. Maybe it's leadership, maybe it's the board themselves, maybe it's the vision, but how do you turn that corner, how do you flip that switch?

Is it a strategic plan? Is it the creation of innovation or an R & D committee? Is it? Is it a conversation with the membership about what they believe? What needs to change to make this happen?

Being innovative is like getting in shape. You can't just decide ‘I'm going to be five sizes smaller’ or ‘I’m going to get strong’ and go to the gym for only one day. It's a process - it's ongoing and forever. There's no full stop at the end of the innovation sentence. 

If you want to be innovative, it has to be something that you're committing to and investing in. 

The real question may be, why haven't you been innovative before? What has been holding you back?

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