- How often do you try a new recipe? A different gas station or restaurant? An unfamiliar magazine or radio station?
- When’s the last time you talked with someone about an idea or project that flopped, or asked for constructive criticism?
- When did you last seek ideas from someone with a different perspective? Or collaborate with a colleague from another department?
- Who lights up your office with their energy, passion and creativity? Is it you?
- 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.
Readiness to experiment
Innovation is a buzz word for a reason. Organizations that are good at managing change — willing to try new things, take risks and fail forward – are the ones evolving into future-ready associations. You don’t have to start out by tackling a new business or membership model. Baby steps are just fine, as long as leaders are willing to get rid of old baggage that no longer moves your association forward and are brave enough to head in a new direction.
Best practices are a perennial conference topic, but how often do associations share their challenges and failures with others? Does an association’s collective ego and pride prevent that? Where are the “What The Heck Did We Do Wrong” sessions? Visser praises museums that blog publicly about their experiments, share their experiences at conferences and open themselves to constructive criticism.
Visser encourages organizations to work “with different partners on different projects (to ensure) a constant stream of fresh ideas.” Diversity of perspectives breeds new ideas, but how diverse are most boards? Many associations wouldn’t consider partnering with a competitor, an attitude that limits their potential. I worked with a local association that partnered with a competing group to offer more educational and networking opportunities to members than either was capable of delivering alone. Would your board ever consider something like that?
No one’s fighting this battle alone. We’re all stretching our comfort zones, learning new skills and finding our way – individuals and organizations. There’s no shame in cooperation.
Don’t you love working with colleagues who come to work in a good mood ready to create something positive together, who continue to learn and share their knowledge, and who solve problems and see opportunity? Hire and promote for attitude: people who are “open to ideas of others, passionate and full of creativity and energy.”
Focus on the member
Visser admires museums that put as much focus “on the experience of the visitor, reaching and engaging them, as on their collection or stories.”
Focus on the 99%, the member experience, not the leaders, the 1%. Our websites, and especially our mobile websites, should reflect this. Our messaging, governance, volunteer opportunities, education – every single thing we do should be member-centric. That seems so obvious, but some organizations seem more concerned with self-perpetuating not serving, country club not community center, bureaucracy not benefits, or as Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant, authors of Humanize, would say, machine not human.
What do you think? Does your association have the right attitude to be valuable and meaningful to the 21st century member?
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who is always working on her attitude.
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