27 February 2013

What I'm Reading

  • What you can - and can't - learn from A/B testing.
  • Another fantastic, challenging post from Joe Gerstandt on actor-observer bias and the myth of reverse discrimination.
  • Fear = lunch. No really, stick with Jeff Haden here.
  • The insights that define innovators. Hearing "we already tried that and it didn't work" DRIVES ME CRAZY.
  • Eric Lanke asks: why are we so afraid to talk to our members?
  • Jamie Notter reminds us that every revolution has a dark side.
  • Hiring? Does your new staff person REALLY have to have a college degree, or are there better signals you could be using?
  • Break your addiction to meetings. Seven months in to working for myself, I still cannot get over how much more I get done when I'm not spending 50% of each day in meetings.

26 February 2013

Strategic Planning v. Strategic Thinking

Lots of chatter about strategy and strategic planning on the ASAE Collaborate groups recently, with lots of people throwing around lots of VERY IMPORTANT sounding terms.

Me, I like simplicity. To quote the Eaglet from Alice in Wonderland: "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and, what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

What do we mean when we talk about strategy?

Strategy is a plan of action designed to help you achieve a set of goals. The best strategies answer a few deceptively simple questions:
  • Where are we now?
  • Where would we like to be?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • How will we know we arrived?
The way that tends to manifest in associations is that every 3 to 5 years, we hire an outside facilitator to sit down with the board and - maybe - the senior leadership team and do "strategic planning." The inevitable result? A lovely report that spends the next 35 to 59 months sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

Meanwhile, the world is changing EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Henry Mintzberg wrote a famous article for the Harvard Business Review in 1994 (that's almost 20 years ago, people) titled “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning.” Short version: he's not a fan. As Mintzberg points out, strategic planning is about analysis of data, while strategic thinking is about synthesis of data. Strategic planning is a process (see above, RE: report that sits on a shelf), while strategic thinking is about vision, intuition, and creativity. In other words, about where you would like to be as an organization and how you get there,

Dissecting strategic thinking versus strategic planning:
  • Dynamic rather than static
  • Flexible rather than rigid
  • Continuous rather than episodic
  • Focused on emergent trends rather than historic standards
  • Rapid rather than staid
  • Fluid rather than fixed
  • Invention rather than reifying what already exists
  • Journey rather than destination
  • Accommodates disruption rather than being thrown into chaos by it
Again, quoting Mintzberg:
“Strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with manipulation of numbers. And this confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions, not plans.”

What are you doing to generate a vision of the future in your organization?

25 February 2013

Always the Last to Know: Apps for Creativity

Another roundup-style post on cool technology, this time of apps to help you be more creative (courtesy of Innovation Excellence, which you really should check out). The only one I've used personally is Evernote, and I live and die by it, so if the others are of that same quality, you really can't miss.

22 February 2013

Friday Top 5

I was honored to be selected to judge ASAE's Gold Circle awards this year in the website category. After having reviewed all 21 entries twice, I'm entering my actual scores today. And I've learned (or remembered) a few things from the process:
  1. Associations are making progress. Every single site has some sort of social technologies connection, and every association was at least on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  2. But not enough progress. The majority of entries are not mobile-friendly. It's 2013, people!
  3. We don't all have to use rotating banners. Really. I promise. And after you've seen it on 20 of 21 sites, it gets a little old.
  4. Design is important (all my designer friends are thinking, "No shit, Sherlock."). Color, font, white space, imagery, layout...all can help you know where to look, or hinder you from accomplishing your tasks. Invest in good design.
  5. I know we often have to use site templates, but it's worth investing some resources to make sure they don't look so template-y. Trust.

21 February 2013

In Praise of Small Ideas

Yet another outstanding find on Slideshare, this one on little "i" innovation, from the mind of Guthrie Dolan of Odopod.

My favorites?
  • Place little bets and double down on what's working
  • Justin Timberlake as prototypical small "i" innovator (really)
  • Embrace changing (small but critical difference from the usual exhortation to "embrace change")
  • Ask yourself some simple questions EVERY day

13 February 2013

What I'm Reading

  • Content marketing: how often? As usual, ask your audience.
  • Top 10 innovations of all time. Agree? Disagree? Subtext, have we become too dependent on technology?
  • The 2013 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report is out and John Haydon breaks down the key insights.
  • Associations Now recaps a Pew study that indicates that Facebook may be beginning its inevitable decline.
  • Shelly Alcorn reminds us that membership IS the value of membership, and the stories we tell about that matter.
  • "You" v. "we," also known as "language matters."
  • Email killing you? Associations Now posits that it may because you're using it wrong.
  • Creatively blocked? Try a change of scenery.
  • What NOT to do in the general sessions, courtesy of Jeff Hurt.
  • When will the web become the worldstream? (h/t to Maddie Grant)
  • Forget the sales funnel - think about the purchase loop.

12 February 2013


Have you checked out the Association 101 webinars yet? We've now held two: one on volunteer management (with Peggy Hoffman of Mariner Management) and one on branding (with Erin Fuller of the Alliance for Women in Media.

Just as a refresher, the monthly FREE webinars provide 10 tips in 20 minutes on a variety of topics in association management.

They always take place on the second Friday of the month at 1:30 pm ET, and are brought to you be Dave Will (Peach New Media), Scott Oser (Scott Oser Associates), and me!

Upcoming topics and speakers include:
  • Government relations, with Stefanie Reeves (American Psychological Association)
  • Board relations, with Bruce Wardle (AMG)
  • Publishing, with Amy Lestition (Coulter Companies)
  • Membership sales, with Miriam Miller Wolk (United Fresh Produce Association)
  • Diversity and inclusion, with Greg Fine (Turnaround Management Association)
  • Web usability, with Ray van Hilst (Vanguard)
  • Exhibiting, sponsorship and advertising sales, with Scott Oser (Scott Oser Associates)
  • Non-dues revenue, with Sandra Giarde (California Association for the Education of Young Children)
 And you can register for ALL of them right now.

You know what else is FREE? The online archives, where you can listen to any of the webinars that have already taken place and get all the handouts. 

11 February 2013

Always the Last to Know: Social Collaboration

These days, if you're looking for technology to support collaborative work, you have a lot of options. Actually, probably too many.

Dropbox. Trello. Yammer. Sharepoint. Central Desktop. Google Apps.

Which one should you use?

Small Business Computing to the rescue!

They've identified the top tools for people-centric collaboration, task-centric collaboration, and file-centric collaboration.

Don't get me wrong - it's not some sort of "this is the tool for you!" magic - but it should help clear up confusion and help you narrow your options, based on what you're trying to accomplish.

08 February 2013

Friday Top 5

I've always been a big proponent of corporate social responsibility, organizing the teams for the Greater DC Cares big annual days of service or the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup or the annual Capital Area Food Bank food drive, and I recently had a realization. Just because I'm a company of one doesn't let me off the hook. So I've committed to a regular monthly volunteer gig that is NOT ASAE committee work. Why is CSR so important?
  1. It reminds your company that you're about more than making a buck.
  2. It opens your eyes to the needs of people in your local community.
  3. It demonstrates that you can do something to address those local needs aside from just writing a check. Don't get me wrong - writing checks is important, too. But volunteering provides a tangible and deeply immediate way to contribute  to your local community.
  4. Regular volunteering allows you to form a relationship with an organization so that you can progress to providing more skilled types of volunteer assistance. Not that there's anything wrong with packing food for hungry people or painting lockers in a school, but as you get to know the organization and they get to know you, you have opportunities to contribute skilled AND unskilled labor.
  5. It feels great!
What are you doing to connect with the needs in your local community on a regular basis?

07 February 2013

SEO and Content: Happy Together!

OUTSTANDING presentation based on REI's experiences on why SEO matters, how you should be tying it to your content strategy, and, along the way, debunking some SEO myths.

Oh - and here's a direct link to the SEOMOZ Beginner's Guide to SEO that pops up late in the deck.

06 February 2013

What I'm Reading

  • Jamie Notter asks: will you be ready when the revolution comes? Not if you've lost touch with those on the outside.
  • GWU and ORI take a fascinating look at social media and the 2012 presidential election.
  • I'm loving the December issue of NTEN: Change. The issue's theme is collaboration, which they examine from all kinds of angles.
  • Be worried: 74% of smartphone users use them while driving. But don't be TOO worried: the top two activities by a WIDE margin are making calls and using navigation/GPS.
  • Is your staff "not creative"? It may be your fault.
  • The data is in, and, according to Associations Now, it turns out women leaders outperform men in empathy, which you probably would have guessed, and problem solving, which you might not have.
  • What's worse than failure? Mediocrity.
  • Jeff Hurt urges us to aspire to be conference outlaws.
  • Looking for stats about the Internet and social in 2012? Look no further than the Marketing Profs recent report.
  • Do's and don'ts for your online presence. My favorite? Don't leave me guessing about how to contact you. And I'd amend it to add: providing info@company.com is NOT sufficient.
  • How many of your thousands of FB "likes" have turned into leads? John Haydon provides some tips to help with conversion.
  • Is your association producing video? Here are some easy tips to make it look more professional without actually, you know, having to hire a professional.

05 February 2013

Dump Your Committees

Volunteerism is changing.

I know I'm not the first person to think - or write - about this. Hell, Peggy Hoffman and Cynthia D'Amour have built their businesses on working with new volunteer models. But recent events have conspired to bring it top of mind for me.

The thing about standing committees is that they're standing.

Think about that for a moment.

Not "walking." Not "running." Not "flying." Not "innovating."

Standing. As in "still."

OK, that may be excessively harsh.

One of the problems with standing committees is that they can easily become zombies, continuing on with calls and meetings and reports to the board whether or not there's actually anything for them to DO.

Now maybe, at some point in the past, nobody really cared all that much. It was part of your community responsibility to be on the call or in the meeting or to write the report, and if nothing was happening, you were OK with that. Common good and whatnot. At least that's the theory about Boomers, although I tend to think it's way less true than everyone pretends it is, but whatever.

One thing we know about following generations is that we're at least more comfortable expressing our irritation with wasted time and effort. We want to come together, GSD (Get Shit Done), and move on.

What does that remind you of? A task force, right? Bring together a group of people who are genuinely interested and skilled in the task at hand, work on it until it's done (whether that's an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year...), have a nice happy hour to celebrate your success, disband.

I know what you're about to say: "Our standing committees are set in our bylaws. Do you know what a pain in the ass it is to try to change our bylaws?"

Actually, yes, I do, having been through it in prior associations. And you do probably have to maintain a standing finance committee. But just because something is hard to do doesn't mean it's not a good idea.


What about an experiment?

The next time one of your board members comes up with a great idea that doesn't have a natural home in one of your existing committees, try putting together a task force to work it, and see what happens. If it goes well, try disbanding one of your standing non-bylaws-mandated committees (you know you have at least one) and spreading their work to some task forces. If that goes well, maybe it's time to open the conversation about which standing committees you really have to have, and which you don't.

04 February 2013

Always the Last to Know: Flow

A couple of Babson students got really tired of the rat's nest of wires involved in DJing and invented Eartop Flow to unplug heir headsets and untether themselves.

Which leads me to wonder: what other applications of this type of technology might there be for associations who often conduct meetings with complex A/V set ups?