Have you ever seen one of these?

association maker culture

UCF’s 3D printer at digitalNow

That’s a 3D printer from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training METIL Lab. David Metcalf and two of his students brought it to digitalNow for The “Maker Society,” their session with Jenny Levine, Strategy Guide at the American Library Association. 

Jenny made it clear up front: “Your association does not need a 3D printer.” Instead she focused on the maker culture and what it means for associations.

These articles will give you a better understanding of the maker culture:

Who’s a maker? Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE, defines a maker as:

“Someone who is a builder, a creator, a producer, a developer, someone who has an active sense of taking an idea and developing it into something that’s real and tangible and can be shared with other people.”

Sounds like an association leader to me.

The Maker Generation

A generation of makers is coming of age — our future members. How do we become organizations they want (and need) in their lives?

Librarians, as usual, are ahead of the game. At work, they’re creating maker spaces for kids and adults. At the American Library Association (ALA), they’re experimenting with new approaches to membership issues. Like many associations, the ALA has seen a decline in volunteerism. Fewer members are willing to commit to time-intensive volunteer roles. So what can an association do? Jenny  appeals to the maker in her members.

  • Listen to member conversations. What are they talking about? What inspires their passion? Jenny monitors an unofficial group of 3000 members and non-members on Facebook – the ALA Think Tank. She looks for short-term project ideas that she can help facilitate.
  • Create new pathways to bring members into association involvement. In addition to the traditional, time-intensive style of volunteer service, offer project-based entry points that require less of a time commitment.
  • Nurture the maker ethos – “let’s just do it” – by providing support or, at least, encouragement to member-organized projects.

One of the UCF students mentioned how fun it is to get a maker community going. The community was already there, UCF only needed to give it resources and get out of the way. You have communities of members who are passionate about different issues or causes. Find them and listen to them. What types of projects would give them a sense of satisfaction while also staying aligned with the association’s mission?

Maker governance

When Jenny looks for projects, one of her criteria is purpose. David Metcalf looks for passion about a social mission. The motivation behind these projects is a yearning to create or accomplish something. That’s such a powerful desire – the drive to create – yet how often do associations satisfy it?

After the session, I wondered: What will happen to the traditional association governance model? Is the next generation of members willing to put in time serving on committee after committee in hopes of getting a board position and then, maybe one day, being nominated for an officer position? Is that a desirable path? Is that how they want to serve? Is that how they envision an association experience?

Will this generation of makers be willing to deal with the slow-moving engines of association governance? Does “let’s just do it” work in the association world? Can we find ways to let people get together and make “things” that help their fellow members, attendees, profession/industry or community? 

I’m excited about this emerging culture of makers and here’s why. Bob Johansen, author of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, says the best leaders are makers:

“All humans have at least a touch of what I call the maker instinct, but most leaders have a serious dose since they must make and remake the organizations they lead. The best leaders have always been tinkerers who imagine alternative structures and love to play around with them to see what new things they can create.”

Why wait for the young ones to start hacking our associations. Let’s figure out how to just do it ourselves.

association maker motto

Photo by NoSoma (Flickr CC)

Steven Rosenbaum says, “Stop knocking curation.” I agree. There’s a big difference between aggregation and curation. I can do without the daily paper.li aggregations. I rarely read them, even if one of my tweets is featured as a “top story.” Too many of them don’t have the human (or curator’s) touch. However, as Rosenbaum says, “Information overload drives content consumers to look for human-filtered, journalist-vetted, intellectually-related material. This hunger for coherence isn’t unreasonable; it’s essential.” He’s talking about curation, like this post. My Reads of the Week posts take some time to put together, but I love doing it, and I appreciate when others do the same. Long live curation!

Are you making marketing’s biggest mistake? It’s an easy mistake to make. Jay Baer warns us about making assumptions based on our own experience — a dangerous thing to do as a marketer. He says that Marketers from Mars, a new report from ExactTarget, “found big differences between how marketers (that’s you and me) use social media, compared to how real people (your customers) use social media.” Watch his two-minute video and check out the data in the infographic. A good wake up call.

I make my living providing content that helps businesses educate clients and prospects, so I’m obviously a big advocate of content marketing. Fact: it works. Andrew Hanelly at TMG is in the same camp. He says, “What was once a secret weapon to savvy brands is now a marketing staple. And if it isn’t yet for your organization, it probably should be.” He provides a list of reasons to embrace content in your marketing mix and backs them up with data and charts.

Geoff Livingston’s interview with Andrew Keen is a must read. They discuss a bunch of meaty topics, including the downside of transparency for individuals, the importance of “dark spaces” and invisibility for creatives, the rise of influencers, narcissism fueled by new media, and the danger of the echo chamber. Lots to chew on here, but I loved this less meaty remark: “I loathe MSNBC equally as Fox because neither of them actually reports the news.” So damn true although their fan bases would argue differently.

I love seeing associations experimenting with new ideas, so kudos to the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Michelle Bruno just returned from their Convening Leaders conference and says, “More than any specific program feature or technological innovation, it was PCMA’s attitude toward digital disruption that was so obvious at the event. They must have trepidation about keeping pace with technology and the future of meetings—their members surely do—but they didn’t let that paranoia stop them. If the level of experimentation at the meeting was any indication, PCMA is always in beta, trying new form factors and delivery systems.” Let’s hear more stories like this – they inspire all of us in the association community.

When I started reading Nilofer Merchant’s post, Having a Point of View, I thought it was about writing, but it’s about much more. She’s talking about leadership: “To have a point of view is to know why you’re there, to be able to signal your purpose or organizing principle so clearly that the “reader knows”, even before he or she dives into the details. It attracts talent, it creates allies, and it focuses the work. When you have point of view about what matters to you and why, your chances of “changing the world” rise exponentially.”

Here’s a helpful post from one of my favorite writers about digital life, Alexandra Samuel. She shares three tricks for monitoring Twitter mentions and trackbacks. These “tricks” have been part of my digital schedule for a while. They will help you be a better social citizen. Alexandra says, “The whole point of seeing all these links is to engage with them, ideally by replying to any questions or substantive comments, and perhaps by thanking some or all of the folks who have tweeted about your work.”

My community service for the week: take the advice in this Lifehacker article and plug up your computer’s (and network’s) security holes. Adding this to my to-do list.

Happy Friday!

Protectin' Ur Intertubez (photo by Dennis Hamilton/Flickr)

Protectin’ Ur Intertubez (photo by Dennis Hamilton/Flickr)

Eight years ago, the Girl Scouts of the USA decided it was time to transform the organization. “We knew we had to…revitalize the organization to ensure we remain compelling, contemporary and relevant to today’s girls.”

“Girl Scouts was founded 100 years ago. We need to update the organization and our model, or else we’re going to lose people,” says Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA.

Sound familiar?

Think big. Act boldly. Transform yourself.

It doesn’t surprise me the Girl Scouts plan to transform themselves. After all, the Girl Scouts have been a transformational experience for many of their alumnae, including me.  According to Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study, Girl Scout alumnae exhibit more positive life outcomes than do non-Girl Scout alumnae, including self-perceptions, volunteerism, community work, civic engagement, education, income and socioeconomic status. Not bad.

Are your members’ lives changed because of their membership? Do they get experiences they wouldn’t have elsewhere? Relationships they couldn’t develop elsewhere? Education they can’t find elsewhere? Does your association provide a transformational experience for your members? Imagine if you did, you wouldn’t have any worries about recruitment, retention or relevance.

Read more about why the Girl Scouts have lessons for associations at the Avectra blog.

My old Girl Scout sash

Quiz time:

  1. How often do you try a new recipe? A different gas station or restaurant? An unfamiliar magazine or radio station?
  2. When’s the last time you talked with someone about an idea or project that flopped, or asked for constructive criticism?
  3. When did you last seek ideas from someone with a different perspective? Or collaborate with a colleague from another department?
  4. Who lights up your office with their energy, passion and creativity? Is it you?
  5. Whose reactions concern you the most: your boss, the CEO, leadership or the average member?

These questions are based on traits identified by Jasper Visser as signs of a good organizational attitude. Visser is a digital strategist and workshop facilitator who works primarily with museums. His recent post, The Future is About Attitude, Not Technology, got me thinking about individual and organizational attitude.

You can have the biggest technology budget on the block, but if your association’s culture and attitude is stuck in the 20th century, that slick AMS or online community is only going to take you so far.

When Visser looks at museums that have successfully adopted new media and technology, he sees five common characteristics that hint at the attitude organizations need to succeed in the 21st century.

Read about these five characteristics at the Avectra blog.

the future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty

Photo by Stephanie Vacher (Flickr)

Brian Solis, in his post, The Importance of Brand in an Era of Digital Darwinism, talks about tone-deaf brands like Netflix that didn’t engage with customers and didn’t monitor social network conversations, consequently screwing up and losing their customers’ trust:

“Brands that fail to instill this level of confidence in consumers run the risk of falling to digital Darwinism. The brands that survive this era of economic disruption, will be the ones that are best able to evolve because they recognize the need and opportunity to do so, before their competitors.”

I wonder how many associations still think it’s business as usual. Many of the large national associations get it, but what about the smaller ones or state associations? They’re not reading the industry blogs. Just what are they reading? Anything? Many of them don’t belong to ASAE, and even if they do, are they paying attention?

Their boards don’t know any better. Why would they? They’re not association professionals.

Sometimes I feel like I’m mourning a patient that doesn’t even know it’s dying. It’s sad. A stupid loss.

The state SAEs, heck, everyone who cares about associations, can’t reinforce this message enough:

“What separates brands that fall to digital evolution from those that excel is the ability to recognize the need for change and the vision to blaze a path toward renewed relevance among a new generation of consumers.”

It’s no different for associations. As Solis says, #adaptordie.

associations adapt or die

Photo by Matt McNier

I hear you. “Games, yes! It’s about time we looked at games.”

And I hear you too. “Games? You can’t be serious. Not at my association.”

Full disclosure, I’m not a gamer, so this is all a bit foreign to me too. I first started paying attention to games two years ago at a TEDx conference where I heard an IBM game designer talk about using games for training and education. Ever since I’ve been intrigued by the idea that game thinking can help associations deliver a better experience.

I’m not the only one. Game dynamics was the topic of last week’s #assnchat.

It’s tempting to dismiss any consideration of games by saying members are serious professionals and wouldn’t go for those shenanigans, but they do.

Games are the most downloaded apps. 72% of households play computer or video games. The average gamer is 37 years old. 42% of gamers are women. 55% of gamers play on their phone or hand-held device.

Here’s what I’m wondering: how can we leverage the principles of game design to make the membership experience or professional development journey more meaningful, or encourage online community participation?

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

game thinking associations gamification game mechanics dynamics

photo by Patrick Hoesly/Flickr CC

Blogs are not dead! That was the verdict from DelCor Technology Solution’s unconference last month: Progress U. – Blogger Summit. I’m go glad I got up to Arlington VA to attend, it was a great day of conversation. DelCor’s publishing a series of follow-up posts from the Summit. The first talks about the state of blog reading and writing today and why blogs are a good idea for associations.

DelCor’s second post discusses Six Barriers to Blogging – And How to Bust Them. Don’t let limited resources, organizational culture, staff’s full plates, fear, lack of confidence orleadership’s unfamiliarity with blogs discourage you.

We’re so lucky to have access to free tools for professional development, like blogs, but there is a potential downside: cognitive overload. Back in August, Ed Rodley, an exhibits professional at the Museum of Science in Boston, wrote about Dealing with Your Cognitive Load. His post received so many replies from the museum community that he compiled their ideas into four more posts.

I must share something he said in Part 4 – it’s what drew me into the rest of these posts because it’s so spot on about personal growth:

“All of the strategies listed above have one thing in common. They don’t require anything aside from your own desire to learn. As someone who has worked in a large institution for most of my professional career, it’s easy to succumb to the mindset of waiting for permission to do anything. This is especially true of old-school “professional development.” There are forms to be completed, signatures to be garnered, and justifications to be gathered before any learning happens. But in the current climate, waiting for anything seems like a recipe for getting left behind.

Speaking of traditional nonprofit organizations, how many of them have a full-time employee dedicated to managing volunteers? Yeah, not many. In associations, volunteering is a benefit of membership, often the benefit that brings them back year after year. You’d think more resources would be directed at keeping members engaged and satisfied, but no. Susan J. Ellis at Energize, Inc. says Part-time Volunteer Management Means Equally Limited Volunteer Involvement.

In this brilliant post Jamie Notter, author with Maddie Grant of must-read book, Humanize, points out that social media is just a wave knocking down a corner of your sand castle. But be ready, he says. “The tide is coming in. Social media is giving us a bit of an advance warning that things are changing.”

While Eric Lanke was visiting one of his members, a manufacturing company, a simple sign on the wall provided a moment of clarity. He brought the mantra back to his association, it’s one that works in any organization: help the customer succeed.

I started this selection with two posts from an unconference, I’ll end with a post that Jenise Fryatt wrote about Event Camp East Coast: How an Unconference Changed My Life.

That’s it for now, happy reading!

Lady Blogger with Her Maid, after Vermeer by Mike Licht (Flickr)

This is a big week in the association management industry — the week of Innovation Talks, aka #asaeinnov. I wrote about innovation in associations last week for the Avectra blog and will have another post on Wednesday about how Disney encourages an innovative culture.

Innovation is right up there as one of the most over-used words this past year, but maybe that’s because we finally realize that if we don’t innovate, we might become irrelevant. Apple’s been doing it right for a long time so Alan Webber at The Christian Science Monitor looks at what Apple can teach the rest of us.

You want to start a blog, you really do, but there are many factors to consider, or so you say. Laura Click examines The Top 10 Excuses That Keep You From Starting a Blog and tells you how to overcome each one.

Now you have a blog, but you still have trouble finding time to blog regularly, despite Laura’s good advice. Stephanie Cuevas to the rescue with her tips for Time Management for Ridiculously Busy Bloggers.

When’s the last time you took a hard look at the About Us page on your website? Is it the same old lame copy your organization has been using forever? Oh dear. Have no fear, Brian Eisenberg at ClickZ shares the Five Traits of an Effective ‘About Us’ Page

Sheila Scarborough provides some of the best advice I’ve read about conference tweeting plus Tips for Following Conference Twitter Hashtags. Bookmark this one so you’re ready for your next real or virtual conference experience.

Finally, and in keeping with the spirit of risk-taking and innovation, here’s a list by Michele Martin of Seven Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. I think I’ve done at least six of them. I’m honestly not sure about #4. Surely I’ve done that in a committee meeting in front of members, but I can’t say for sure. What about you?

blogging website copywriting innovation association freelance writer

Photo by Flattop341 (Flickr)

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