I am blessed to have enjoyed increasing responsibilities of leadership over my 25 year career in for-profit business. It is my desire to leverage this perspective to further develop my offerings as a leader with impact. This desire has led to my career advancement at ASQ—a non-profit with mission-focused work.
In the new economy, there is an opportunity for leaders to connect the historical gap between commercial interests and social impact. I believe that I am in the right place, at the right time, to sharpen my understanding of this new leadership opportunity, and to grow my offerings to the society with rich and practical experience.
In recent months, I have given a lot of thought to the biggest challenges facing today’s associations, including ASQ. In this essay, I share my perspective—and vision—for the future of the association, including, of course, ASQ. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect those of ASQ.
Professional, or trade, associations have been in existence since the early 19th century. These groups usually formed usually as a nonprofit organization that existed to further a profession, or the interests of the individuals engaged in that profession, as well as the public interest. Today, there are more than 92,000 associations in the U.S., many of which are based in the U.S. association capital of Washington D.C.
A few dynamics can shape the story for associations in the future:
1) The speed at which data and information is developed outpaces a professional’s ability to integrate diverse points of consideration within a mental model for the timely formulation of opinion, decision and use.
2) The increasing acknowledgment of social connectivity as a psychological factor for well-being; and new models for connection replacing old models (i.e., from dinner meetings to WhatsApp).
3) The evolution of what it means to be mission-driven, and what it means to become a member; and the currency/cost of joining.
4) The global body of knowledge serves as the new norm for problem solving.
When asking the members of a particular association on why they are members, clear themes take shape. Members seek their own growth personally and professionally, and see the association as a key resource. Also, members express an interest in being a part of a community, and based on age demographics, this can range from a “physical group” that I participate with to “the knowledge that I am connected” to a mission.
With consideration for the now economy, members would prefer a real-time channel of information that connects them to a body of knowledge, based on what they are seeking at a given point in time.
Members will have a new paradigm for serving their role of member.
Members will no longer see value in paying to participate in dinners and conferences as the norm for receiving impactful developments in their field of interest, and, instead, members will require intellectual insights that can help them to perform better in their profession, instantaneously.
The association of the future will shift from “body of knowledge” – accessible via a portal on a website and pruned regularly to “channels of discussion” –latest and best, 24×7.
Leveraging the amalgamation of a … Google-like content database + Sirius-like frequency of discussion + LinkedIn-like connections + Facebook-like personas + Open-source cross-geography access for problem-solving, the association of the future will further the advancement of professionals by extending their knowledge base via a respected community of participants.
The membership model shifts would include…
Annual fees and conferences are deemphasized and “value of contribution” becomes the new currency (called breakthrough equity). A member would earn breakthrough equity as a rating from global peers within the connected community (similar to a “like” on Facebook). This equity would be the cost of participation (or invitation) to mission-driven, global conferences and other thought leadership forums.
Association members are asking for “just-in-time” information and “how-to” guides today. The challenge for many associations is that this new requirement must be supported by a robust technology capability and systematized information; all of which have not been a traditional strength, or investment. In short, many desire to be the “Google” for the knowledge that they value; however, they fall within a chasm between their current state and this vision.
Macroeconomic trends will inevitably impact the evolution of professional associations. If they take a strategy focused on building a robust future model, however, we will see associations in the future. The future association will be designed to serve and strengthen the knowledge worker who is seeking advancement of mission and increased impact on his or her field of study, science, government, and society.
What’s your future vision for the associations you take part in—whether they are ASQ or another group?