30 December 2011

Happy New Year!

However you choose to celebrate - on the town with a huge crowd, with just your closest loved ones, or something in between, I wish you a joyful New Year's celebration, and health, happiness, and excellent adventures in 2012!

(Back Tuesday)

Image credit: El Dorado Cocktail Lounge 

29 December 2011

Book Review: Humanize

If you're one of my regular readers - or someone who knows me IRL - you probably know of my disdain for business books. Generally, they state the obvious or the *painfully* obvious at a fifth-grade reading level, with LARGE print on pages with LOTS of white space. I firmly believe that, with very few exceptions, reading them actually makes you dumber.

So I don't say this lightly: Humanize is genius.

Authors Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter use the lens of social media to examine our "modern" business, management, and leadership practices and find them au courant...with the Industrial Revolution. At that time, perhaps a mechanical view of the world made sense, or at least more sense than it does now. But social media has spurred a revolution in the way people relate to each other on the individual, micro, and macro levels. The genie's loose, and he's not going back.

And while we shouldn't - and in many cases don't - even want to go back, our organizations are not keeping pace. Our focus on best practices (imitation) over innovation, a strategic planning process that assumes that the future is knowable and unchanging, human resources management that relies on hierarchy, org charts and knowing (and keeping to) your place, and leadership that's viewed as some sort of "secret sauce" that individuals either have (so they get to be at the top of the org chart) or don't (so they're one of of the proles) keeps us stuck in those old systems and patterns that are killing us.

Maddie and Jamie go on to identify four key qualities that can help our organizations be more human (or, more accurately, stop trying to force organizations made up of people into an assembly line mentality): being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous. In the meat of the book, they examine how these four qualities, expressed through the mediums of organizational culture, internal process/structure, and individual behavior, have the power to create organizations that, to quote p. 247, "inspire us and bring out the best in us."

If business people read, accept and implement the ideas contained in Humanize around these qualities and how they can be fostered at the personal, process, and organizational level (hardly a given of course), I believe this book has the power to RADICALLY transform our organizations and, just possibly, save the world of associations in the process.

28 December 2011

What I'm Reading

Lots of 2011 roundups/advice for 2012 this week:
  • Top social media lessons from 2011: part 1 and part 2.
  • Acronym's take on the best association blogging of 2011.
  • Speaking of blogging, some fascinating stats on the state of the blogosphere.
  • Jay Daughtry's 5 words for 2012.
  • Is your association trying to do too much?
  • Some good advice for focus in 2012.
  • Have you checked out Talent Anarchy yet? You really should - here's a great post to start with.
  • Why do private communities fail (and what can you do to fix it)? (warning: you may have to login to the ASAE website to get this)
  • I finished A Visit from the Goon Squad and really loved it. It was an interesting way to construct a novel. It was kind of a collection of short stories. The cast of characters was the same throughout, but each person got a chapter/story in which s/he was the main character, after which s/he served as a peripheral character in the others' stories. Some were set in the past, some were set in the present, and some were set in a somewhat dystopian near future. Punk rock was an overarching theme, as were the themes of disillusionment, isolation, the breakdown of society and relationships, and anarchy contained in the music itself. In a complete change of pace, I'm now re-reading Julia Child's My Life in France.

27 December 2011

Is This Really the Best We Can Do?

I just got the latest issue of CEO Update (v. XXI, #537, December 16 and 30, 2011) in the mail. Either as a result of the slowdown in hiring or the changing needs of the market or both, CEO Update is a lot more than just job openings these days. They've expanded their coverage to do some actual reporting on the state of the association industry.

So I open it up to the centerfold, which is the Top 25 CEO Quotes of 2011.

25 people

2 women

23 men

0 people of color


For those who don't want to do the math at home, that's 8% women, 92% men, 0% non-white (that last one was pretty easy to calculate).

When I was actively supporting the CAE study program (2004 - 2010), we used to tell candidates to plan to answer questions on the exam from the perspective of a 65 year old white man. In 2009 (? possibly 2008), someone got offended, so we removed that from our advice. In retrospect, I think we did the candidates a disservice, because even though it may not be PC to point it out, it *remains* true.

Do I sound pissed? Good, because I am.

And I'm not just talking about throwing in some faux-United Colors of Benetton "diverse" stock photo here. This goes deeper. The CEO Update editors sat down and thought: "What were the best CEO insights of the year?" And they came up with insights from 25 white people.

Some worry that associations as a concept may be at risk due to social and technological changes. I think that if, after all these years, this is the best we can do, maybe we deserve to be extinct.

22 December 2011

Happy Holidays!

I wish you and your loved ones a joyful season of light!

(Back Tuesday)

21 December 2011

What I'm Reading

  • In a bit of circular blogging, I pointed out a study that Eric Lanke read and then wrote a post about and now I'm linking back to "What Battle Are You Fighting?".
  • Are your best staff members eying the door? These are probably the reasons why.
  • Bold marketing resolutions for 2012 (I particularly like the one about mobile websites).
  • 5 common strategy mistakes AND the fixes.
  • Looking to hire a community manager? Look here (the part about looking to nonprofits because we’re used to managing volunteers with no resources is both funny and a little sad).
  • I'm still working my way through Humanize and, spoiler alert, I think it's transformative. More when I finish it.

20 December 2011

TED Talks: Filter Bubbles

Automated filtering is great, right? It saves us all a huge amount of time.

Maybe not. Maybe what it does is put us in an echo chamber.

19 December 2011

Always the Last to Know: Embedding Tweets

This is information that would have been useful to me Friday, when I went back through my #Tech11 tweet stream to find my top takeaways, but did you know that you can embed tweets just like you do YouTube videos or Slideshare presentations?

Webmonkey shows you how.

16 December 2011

Friday Top 5

Today's Friday Top 5 is about #Tech11, too - my top takeaways.
  1. In the fishbowl session on social CRM led by Lindy Dreyer in which Lindy pointed out that association websites are transitioning from being places where we push information out to members into community hubs, Polly Karopwicz observed that our members ARE the hub.
  2. In order to get a full picture of member interactions, we have to track ALL data back to one place (AMS/CRM makes the most sense). Intellectually, we all know this, but how many of us are actually doing it? Bill Walker tweeted about an association with 32 separate databases and I'd be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that that's not unusual.
  3. In Maddie Grant's blogging session, Jamie Notter pointed out that bloggers can't predict what's going to get comments, so the best way to deal with that is to quit worrying about it and write with passion. Amen!
  4. In his mobile debate session with Lindy Dreyer, Jeff de Cagna advised us to "Consider the weird." He pointed out that we shouldn't necessarily DO the weird, but considering it opens up our minds to the possibility of great ideas.
  5. And I loved Luke Wroblewski's 3 key points from his opening keynote on mobile:
  • Growth in mobile presents opportunity 
  • Constraints of mobile force focus 
  • Capabilities of mobile lead to innovation 
 (What? That's totally one point!)

Jeff de Cagna also observed that associations are "pre-digital" in our approach to the world. Joe Rominiecki followed on that same point with a great post-event piece at Acronym: Associations are "in denial" about technology.

Finally an observation: there was a lot of talk about mobile and how it represents a change of mindset. I wonder if, a la Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it actually represents a change of worldview?

15 December 2011

From the Humanize chat

Wow, the #ASAETech chat on Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's new book, Humanize, was almost two weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to sharing my thoughts. Hey, #Tech11 had us ALL booked solid last week, right?

For those who aren't yet familiar, the book is about transforming our organizations from a mechanized paradigm to a human paradigm by being open, generative, trustworthy, and courageous. I'm reading the book now and will likely have more to write about it as I progress, but for now, a few things struck me during the December 2 chat.

Lindy Dreyer made a great observation during the chat: being open is something most of us aren't allowed to practice at lower levels, so when we move up in organizations, we've never worked that way before. I think she's right, and it applies to the other key elements of being human in the workplace as well. Why do the bad systems perpetuate themselves? Because more experienced workers train newer workers and pass down "we have always done it (or not done it) that way." This may present an opportunity, as un-mentored Gen-Xers move into leadership positions as the Boomers start retiring (some day). (That's assuming any of us resist the lure of starting our own gigs long enough to be available for those leadership positions, of course.) We haven't been as fully inculcated to being closed and opaque, so there might be a chance to break out of this pattern.

Maddie Grant observed that perhaps the reason there's so much discomfort with social media in workplace is because it lights our passions, and we're not comfortable with passion and emotion in the workplace. Of course, this immediately made me think of Joe Gerstandt's work, and his fantastic "Fly Your Freak Flag"session at the ASAE Annual Meeting in August. The upside of forcing people to keep their passions out of the workplace is, obviously, things run more smoothly if everyone's dispassionate. But there's a downside, too:  you will NEVER get people's best efforts if all your incentives point to smooth efficiency. Passion is messy, but it's also where the juice for good ideas lives.

Jamie Notter provided my new favorite saying: "Proceed until apprehended." It expresses the old "ask forgiveness, not permission" idea, but far more succinctly and elegantly. LOVE!

Finally, the closing keynoter at #Tech11 was one of the authors of the seminal 1999 work The Cluetrain Manifesto. As a result, I popped over to their website and re-read the 95 Theses (scroll down to get to them). Working my way through Humanize now, I realized: we've been saying the same damn thing for 10+ years.

Is anyone listening?

14 December 2011

What I'm Reading

  • KiKi's list of apps for busy association execs.
  • Punk Views on Social Media is now public, which means you can lurk without getting kicked out!  (not that I would know anything about that)
  • 12 things you didn't know Facebook could do. (OK, I'm guessing THIS crowd pretty much knew about many of these, but maybe not all.)
  • It's not about sales, it's about what you're selling.
  • Want to wreck your professional reputation? Tech Republic can help.
  • Why is collaboration so damn hard?
  • Great ways to show your staff some love.
  • Shelly Alcorn dares you to have a big vision.
  • Sometimes, more business and less fun can be the right approach.
  • A mobile app is not a mobile strategy.
  • Conversely, not EVERYTHING needs a big fancy strategy.
  • To fix work, add more conflict.
  • There IS no ROI to social media marketing. But that's OK, because there's no ROI of marketing period.
  • No one makes sense anymore (a funny take on some of my own use of language pet peeves).
  • Social media trends for 2012.
  • Is Facebook stealing something important from us?
  • Still reading A Visit from the Goon Squad (with HUG and Tech last week and the performance over the weekend, my leisure reading time has been a bit limited), and I've started Humanize, so watch this space for my thoughts on it as well.

13 December 2011

What the Tech?

I usually do this earlier, but we were working on the slides up until the last minute. Below you'll find the slides from my presentation with Andrew Hanelly, Polly Karpowicz, and Maggie McGary at the ASAE Technology Conference last week:
We also had some great resources listed in our handout:

12 December 2011

Always the Last to Know: 2011 Top 10

The end of year wrap ups are beginning, and ReadWriteWeb recently profiled the top 10 consumer web products of 2011. Most of these have already made it into Always the Last to Know, but it was interesting to see which RWW thought were the best 10, and why.

02 December 2011

Friday Top 5

Next week is #Tech11, aka the ASAE Technology Conference, aka the annual association geekfest. Even though I'm 4+ years removed from day-to-day IT support, OF COURSE I'm going. Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward to:
  1. The Higher Logic Users' Group Super Forum. I can't wait to swap stories and hear all the cool things you all are doing with your member communities, so I can steal them for MINE!
  2. Presenting with Maggie McGary, Polly Karpowicz, and Andrew Hanelly on Wednesday, December 7 at 1:30 pm. Come check us out at "What the Tech?" and chat with us about what key metrics you should be tracking and why.
  3. The YAP party. You DO NOT want to miss this. For realz. Wednesday night, December 7, 9 pm, RFD. Wear your best game day gear, and come ready to dance!
  4. Hosting a bunch of cool association peeps for some NFL gridiron action on Sunday afternoon, December 4. Didn't get the invite? Want to join us? Just email me for the details.
  5. Catching up with even more cool association peeps, local and not-so-local, I don't see often enough.
(Also, I won't be posting next week, as I'll be at the HUG Super Forum and the Tech Conference. But I'll definitely do a recap post the week of December 12 to share what I learned. In the meantime, follow the hashtag to see what's going on.)

01 December 2011

"Done is the engine of more."

I love a good infographic, and Shelly Alcorn tweeted a link to a great one on the creative process yesterday.

All of the points are relevant for associations, I think, but the above one, which is listed last, seems to me to be the most important.

A few months ago, I was having a discussion with some smart association peeps, and we got talking about the fact that, in membership organizations, it's not so much that we fear failure for its own sake. What we really fear is criticism - from our colleagues and bosses, sure, but even more so from our members and boards.

Because of that, we're change-averse, decision-averse, and completion-averse. If I keep working on a project forever, and never roll it out, no one can ever find anything wrong with it, right?

The thing is, all those partially completed projects that should've been done in 6 weeks but drag on for 6 months weigh us down. If it's never finished, you never get to check that one off and move on to the next project or idea. You never even get to move on to the 1.2 version of the current project.

We get so caught up in the "everything has to be PERFECT" mindset that we shut out our members and their ideas and opinions, and make them passive consumers rather than active partners.

What if, rather than waiting until we had everything just so to roll out our new member service, we went to our members with: "This is a new service we're considering. We don't have all the kinks worked out yet, so we know some of you will want to wait to check it out until it's in a more completed form. And that's fine. But for those of you who are willing to try something that may not be 100% functioning yet, we'd love it if you could test it and give us your feedback so we can make sure that, once it is fully ready, it truly meets your needs and is easy for you to use."?

What would that world look like? How much more engaged would your members be? How would that change their perception of ownership in your association? How would that impact relationships between staff, members and board? How much faster could you move? How much more could you provide for your members?