How to Create a Culture of Innovation

Are associations innovative?

In a recent study of 123 association executives across a breadth of industries, the majority described themselves as highly innovative and believe they are the first to adopt new products or strategies.

However, only half of those same executives believe their most member-facing products, resources, and experiences are “fresh” and the majority lack many of the basic cultural elements in order to create sustainable efforts.

Further, almost a quarter of association executives disagreed that innovation is critical to their overall strategy and almost a third disagreed that they make deliberate investments on innovation.

This disparity highlights the need for accurate self-assessment when looking at actual effort.


Innovation is critical.

There is a significant correlation between having an innovative culture and how organizations have fared in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Organizations with a strong innovative culture were faring significantly better than expected and those with a weak innovative culture were either performing the same as they had been or worse.

To this end, it is absolutely vital for associations to work toward establishing a culture of innovation internally and our research defined three steps on that journey.


Three steps in innovative culture creation:

  1. Generate momentum

The thought of innovation can be paralyzing for many organizations; at face value, it can seem an insurmountable task.  This is especially true for associations that might not have focused on innovation in the past.  It is important to start small:  focus on low-hanging fruit and place smaller bets in order to achieve quick wins everyone can celebrate.

  1. Formalize a vision

As these small bets begin paying off for the organization, developing an innovation process needs to be developed and cultivated over time.  This vision and resulting plan provides clear direction staff and Boards need to realize the potential impact of new member-facing products, resources, and experiences as well as the internal-facing tools and resources to bring the former to fruition.

  1. Implement and engrain

Once the momentum is created and a vision is established, there are a number of pieces that will need to be put into place to keep that momentum going.  The vision will need alignment from staff and Board members, a senior staff member will need to lead the implementation of the vision (ideally, someone with an entrepreneurial mind or skillset), intentional and protected budgets will need to be set, and then measurements and metrics put in place to hold teams accountable to their commitments.


These steps are tough and take time, but are worth it for the continued success of your association.  For more information on the study that generated these findings, please visit or email us at

Posted in Associations, Blog, Insights, LRC Blog.