Benita Lipps from Interel breaks down the topic of innovation and how associations feel about this much-hyped word...
Part 3: Innovation is dead; long live innovation!
Does that mean that association professionals should give up on innovation? That we should focus steering our ocean liners of continuity through the turbulences of progress and change, relying on the tradition and the ‘tried-and-tested’? I don’t think we should, and all association leaders who participated in our study agreed.
Now, that we can frame the challenge – the fact that standard innovation models will simply not work for most associations – we can work towards new models. We can identify the innovation methods and tools that help associations deliver results for our members, our teams and our sustainability.
What could such an approach look like? Luckily, there's no need to guess, just look around us. There are many association professionals out there innovating and are often happy to share their insights.
Less talk of innovation, more proactive problem solving
When most people think of innovation, they think of trendy tech people engaged in endless brainstorming, finding creative ideas and experimenting with beautifully designed prototypes. While there is nothing wrong with these approaches, innovation is essentially about finding useful solutions: “An innovation is a feasible and relevant offering such as a product, service, process or experience with a viable business model that is perceived as new and is adopted by customers,” confirms Gijs van Wulfen, author of the FORTH Innovation Methodology. Let’s explain to our board, our teams and our partners that innovation is not blue-sky thinking, it is simply a smart tool for problem solving.
While this may not sound as glamorous as ‘disruptive innovation’, experience shows that it’s often the little things that can make a big difference in the long run. Not sure that that means? Here are some concrete examples that were shared with us during our innovation research:
- Tweaks to the statistical reporting helped to speed up delivery and to create bigger value for leadership
- Renegotiating existing sponsor partnerships helped to create significantly more value for both the association and the sponsors
- Running key governance and member meetings virtually helped save significant money on travel and allowing for more agile working and collaboration.
Results of the question "What would help drive innovation in your association?" from Interel's survey.
Investing in Association Innovation
- One society has just strengthened and grown their internal conference organising team, allowing them to offer more value and better service to their participants
- Another European alliance is hiring an additional staff member as communication and projects officer.
- Four associations invested in technology. Two developed their extranet, offering members better services without increasing staff time. Two others invested in member management and invoicing tools, allowing them to automate some administrative work.
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