For associations, innovation is critical. In a recent study of association executives, those that had a strong culture of innovation were faring significantly better in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic than their peers. While most associations view themselves as innovative, they fall short in key areas that define it as part of their culture.
As associations build towards an innovative culture, there are common themes and elements to the challenges they face. Three categories of constraints emerged from the research, holding associations back from achieving the level of success with innovation that they desire:
- Complacency, or inability to change (paralysis). Associations that are constrained by complacency are seemingly stuck, with some believing it is better to maintain the status quo than it is to risk “rocking the boat.” The challenge is likely in breaking down what seems like a complex problem or opportunity into a series of smaller steps in order to build momentum for an innovation strategy.
- Lack of resources. These associations mostly recognize the need to change, or to innovate, but have insufficient staff, staff time and/or budget to make that change occur. In many respects, there is a lack of prioritization or an ineffectiveness to stop doing things which are not producing meaningful outcomes for the association.
- Lack of vision. Associations that saw a lack of senior leadership vision as their top constraint on innovation were also likely to cite no sense of urgency and lack of budget as additional problem areas. These associations need direction from their senior leaders to establish an intentionality behind why, where, how, and for whom the association should innovate. This vision starts at the top but requires buy-in from both staff and Boards.
Nevertheless, with the right tools and mindset, any association is capable of innovating. Given the longer-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (or any disruption, for that matter), innovation will be critical to the longer-term success of associations in general. However, those who remain complacent, who continue to deprioritize the resourcing of innovation, and those who do not install leaders who create inspiring visions for the future will fall short of their potential.
For more information about the Association Innovation Scan, please visit AssociationInnovation.today or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org