Thursday, April 5, 2007

We Have Always Done It That Way: 101 Things About Associations We Must Change by Five Independent Thinkers

This is probably the first book I’ve read that is a collection of postings on a blog. The Five Independent Thinkers are Jeff De Cagna, David Gammel, Jamie Notter, Mickie Rops and Amy Smith. They have such provocative ideas as:

1. The key value of associations is no longer in providing information to their members, it is now in helping their members find critical information and knowledge in the mass of information that permeates their world. They should act like an information concierge rather than a publisher.

2. Association CEOs need to establish a culture in which the leaders understand that the appropriate way to make their mark is to advance the association, its members, and the field it represents, not their own personal agendas. Don’t ask an incoming Board chair what her agenda is. Discuss with her the association’s current strategic priorities and ask what particular ideas she has to move these forward—ideas that need to be scrutinized, budgeted for, and approved by the Board.

3. Build the topic of change into a regular agenda item at staff meetings. Engage them in the conversation about what is changing or needs to change in the organization. Don’t allow the discussion and decision to reside entirely with the CEO and the Board. Doing so puts you in the mode of change enforcement, not change management.

4. Associations can position themselves as the knowledge center of their industry or profession by regularly asking their members the following questions:
a. What is the number one most pressing business issue you need to address in the next six months?
b. What is that business issue costing your organization?
c. What kind of information or interactions to you need in order to address this issue?
d. What would you pay if you knew that you could get assistance addressing that issue by participating in a learning experience?
…and reshaping conference formats, features and functions to address the answers.

5. Don’t send memos to all staff in response to one person violating a policy or procedure. Have frank conversations with staff members who are out of line, and don’t punish everyone for the actions of a few.

6. Contacting members individually to design customized membership packages with different sets of membership benefits at different price points creates an environment in which: (a) your membership director begins to see membership benefit trends, (b) members appreciate and highly value the personal attention, and (c) members begin to take advantage of a wider range of programs and services offered by the association.

7. If you create a web page that simply lists the RSS feeds from your industry or profession, your organization will become the knowledge center for your industry or profession, and you don’t have to offer all the content.

8. Associations can move beyond being pushers of information and become facilitators of knowledge creation and sharing by:
a. Filtering – extracting from the information masses only the relevant information for a particular audience.
b. Providing feedback – offering a constructive and informative response to the results of an activity.
c. Contextualizing – adding meaning to content by relating it to specific circumstances.
d. Facilitating connections – bringing together individuals with common interests, issues or expertise.


  1. Thanks for the review, Eric! And although our postings have slowed considerably, we did continue to post ideas/thoughts/content to the blog.

  2. Agreed - this book is a must-read!