Friday, January 1, 2010

From Here to There

It's a cold, rainy day here in Washington. Great day to kick back, sip hot tea, contemplate and reflect--something these days there is so little time to do. Yet so important, so we don't later discover that we have been running hard, but in the wrong direction. As I have been doing that, something has been coming up that I want to share. What's coming up is that life for each of us is a series of transformations, conversions, movements...what we're all involved in constantly.

For example, through a series of processes, conversations, movements:

Parents are moving their children from dependence to independence;
Artists are transforming blank canvases to masterpieces;
Chef are busy converting raw ingredients into delicious meals;
Restaurants are converting those delicious meals into memorable experiences.

When I think of associations, for me as I see it, we exist to help our members overcome their various obstacles and help them move from where they are today to where they want to be. This is and will be the constant as we move forward into the 21st century--their desire for movement. Of course their challenges, their desired state will continue to evolve and how we support them in making those shifts happen successfully, through what structures, what offerings will continue to evolve.

Today when we see number of associations facing decreasing membership, reduced revenues, along with numerous other challenges, I more frequently find myself wondering how much of that has to do with the current economy and how much to do with how associations do what they do. In other words, how much of our current challenges are due to external reality vs. our own thinking. I know when I look at myself, some of my great challenges & battles I face in my own life are not so much external but rather the ones that takes between my own ears.

Given the increasing rates of change, I wonder if it's time to more frequently through research and other means better understand where our members are today, where they want to be, and what challenges they are facing? Time to identify and reexam our assumptions, our beliefs about how we associations function, our roles, and why/how we do what we do? How much more fluid and flexible we need to be? Given that major innovations frequently come more from the outside of the industry, how do we effectively invite participation from those who are outside, those who may not be necessarily members but can and will contribute new ideas, new thoughts, help us redefine, stay current... so we don't just survive but rather thrive as we move forward? That we see these current challenges as opportunities to redefine ourselves, our structures, our offerings and come out through the current climate even stronger?

In conclusion, in our lives transformations, movements and conversions is constant but how we get from here to there, and where that is will continue to shift. The question is what do we do and how we keep up with these shifts, so we continue to thrive. Just wondering out loud with you, my colleagues here. Thoughts?

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