Agility. Speed. Experimentation. These were just some of the themes discussed at Forum Forward 2017, the annual meeting hosted by Association Forum. The meeting, held June 28 at Morgan Manufacturing in Chicago, focused on the idea of accelerating the success of your association by combining some tried-and-true principles, such as promoting staff culture and positive member experiences, with a spirit of innovation and a willingness to expand outside of your comfort zone. The 2017 theme for Forum Forward, “Construct, Deconstruct, Reconstruct,” served as both a wake-up call and a rallying cry for an industry that strives to create memorable, meaningful engagement experiences for its members and customers.
While there was plenty of information to consume and ideas to ponder, here are a few key takeaways that you can apply to your own organizations:
“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
This quote, attributed to legendary IndyCar driver Mario Andretti, really could have been the theme of the entire meeting. With an increased focus on providing unique and worthwhile experiences, associations need to take a few more risks with their product and service portfolios. There may never be a perfect time to launch a new initiative, but a nimble, agile organization can innovate over time to develop an offering that will satisfy the needs and interests of its membership. This quote also applies to other aspects of association business; speaker Jamie Notter mentioned this concept in discussing staff culture and the importance of employees — especially senior leaders — actually embodying the principles and values that the organization purports to represent.
Millennials and the Importance of Perspective
In an energetic and thought-provoking final keynote, executive coach and speaker James Pogue, PhD, challenged association executives to lead across generations. He offered his mantra, “One thing, two, three, four different ways,” as a reminder to consider different perspectives and to take the time to analyze a situation without making snap judgments. As an apropos example, Pogue asked the audience to shout out words that are commonly associated with the Millennial generation. While a few positive words were mentioned, responses mostly consisted of pejorative terms that society commonly uses to describe this generation, such as “entitled,” “lazy,” “impatient” and “selfish.” However, applying those terms to Millennial staff members — and even worse, using those terms in the office — can create a hostile work environment for these valuable contributors. Maybe Milliennials leave their jobs so quickly because they get tired of hearing other generations talk about them like that, Pogue said.
Elements of Value
One of the more valuable resources shared at Forum Forward was the “Elements of Value Pyramid,” created by Bain and Company and referenced by speaker Laurie Pasler. The pyramid, which was discussed at length in the September 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review, is an extension of the classic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, it takes the angle that products and services can fulfill up to 30 different fundamental value attributes in four different categories: functional, emotional, life changing and social impact. The resemblance of this pyramid to association membership is uncanny; for example, organizations strive to advance beyond the functional attributes of value to make emotional connections with their members. Meanwhile, one of the “life-changing” attributes is “affiliation/belonging,” and the very top of the pyramid is “self-transcendence.” Think about your best “good-of-the-order” members; haven’t they achieved self-transcendence to the point that their primary reason to renew is to give back to a field that gave them so much?
What were your takeaways from Forum Forward? Did the sessions unearth any challenges that are now keeping you up at night? Have you seen improvements either internally or externally based on changes you’ve made?