Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Innovation in Association Management



I knew better than to walk into Borders this week.

There is something creepy about the carnage of a failed business and something even more off-putting in the vulture like way people prowl through empty stores looking for bargains.  I saw things I wanted, but couldn't bring myself to buy them.  I'm not big on picking through the bones of unwitting roadkill.

Six weeks ago, Borders - to the average consumer like me - seemed fine.  I don't watch stock prices and I don't read SEC reports so I am sure that I was blindsided only because I wasn't paying attention. But one day an enterprise is here and the next it's gone.  Why do you think your association is immune to those same forces?

Borders was late to the party.  They didn't adjust fast enough.  Amazon has been killing them slowly for years.  How much longer can Barnes and Noble hold out?  I'm not going to place any bets on it.  Forever people have claimed online booksellers can't recreate the experience of the bookstore.  They can't beat the feeling of holding the book in your hand.  The serendipity of finding the book you weren't looking for.  The casual yet meaningful conversations with like minds in the Sci-Fi aisle.

So Amazon adjusted.  They created "look inside."  They created reviews.  They created suggestions - if you liked this, you might like this.  Then they removed THE BOOK from the equation and created the Kindle.  Are there other e-readers out there that are better?  Yes.  But that's a platform fight.  The "book store" fight is almost over.  Libraries?  Amazon is coming for you too.

iTunes?  Unassailable?  Meet Spotify.

Movie theaters and distribution?  Unassailable?  Meet Prescreen.

Your association - unassailable?  Think again.  B-corps are coming up on you.  Your tax status is under threat.  You have invisible cracks in your infrastructure.  Your members might not see it.  You might not even see it.  But they are there.  I've seen it.  I've seen the wreckage left behind after an association flies into a mountain.  I was hired to help pick through and liquidate 14,000 square feet of 85 employees worth of offices, cubicles and file cabinets.  It was creepy and weird.  Like a graveyard.  And it was hard.  And devastating.  And sad.  And all too real.

And they never thought it could happen to them.  They recovered but they do not look the same.   They are on an upturn now but they paid a heavy price.

Jeffrey Cufaude wrote an excellent post about Searching for Hidden Damage.  Search for hidden damage.  Diligently.  Prepare.  Innovate.  Change.

Deirdre Reid wrote about ASAE's Innovation Talks.  WSAE is hosting their Innovation Summit right now.  Follow along on twitter #innovationhub.

Jeff De Cagna writes and speaks on this topic frequently.  

Do you really think it can't happen to us?  Borders probably thought it couldn't happen to them too.

Follow along.  Get serious about this.  Host your own innovation conversations.  

Let's get to work.


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