Thursday, June 26, 2014

Micro Change Can Lead to Macro Change

From this: 

To this: 

There has been a movement underway for some time to replace the traditional symbol for "handicapped" with a new visual and to stop using the word "handicapped" on signs. What a beautiful idea to choose to use new terms to shift the conversation to one about "accessibility" not "disability." There is legislation currently being considered in New York that would do this statewide.

I am only peripherally involved in the topic just due to general interest, and I don't profess to understand any of the nuances of the pros and cons here (if there actually are any). However, I have to say that just on the face of it, this seems awesome. I mean - just look at the two pictures above! The second icon gives a feeling of power and motion using essentially identical design components. The idea of shifting our lens from "accommodating disability" to "creating accessibility" may have profound implications for all of us as we move into our later years.

This is just one small example of how shifting our imagery, and our language, can fundamentally alter our mental models. I've yapped for years about how changing our language can change our worlds. I believe it is our responsibility as association professionals to intentionally think about where the language and images we use are holding us back, rather than propelling us forward. It's only when we change how we speak about ourselves that we can change the mental models we hold about ourselves, and that we in turn project into the world around us. Changing our terminology, can change the way we are perceived both in the micro and macro senses.

I believe associations are vital, important and key to an individuals personal and professional success. However, much of the language we use is "salesy-markety-selly-welly" stuff instead of using more aspirational language designed to help the member understand their work environment and where they spend most of their time.  We spend a lot of time defining what it means to be a member inside of the association, but not nearly enough time defining what it means to be a member outside of the association in their chosen industry, profession or - for that matter - as part of the global ecosystem.

Start your "membership recruitment cycle," with defining and advancing your industry/profession FIRST. Doing that requires a shift in tone, language and objective. But look at the example up above. The most profound changes can be achieved by using the same tools, components you already have and just shifting that lens a little bit. If you can do that, you can truly make a difference.


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