Well, I'm back from Nashville, and I have to say that I had a REALLY GREAT time at the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting. The staff did a fantastic job. It was obvious that a great deal of creativity went into the planning for the meeting, and all of their efforts paid off by elevating the energy and enthusiasm level throughout. The buzz among the attendees was awesome...everyone I talked to had fun and learned a great deal. Most importantly, no one walked away from the meeting with the impression that this was your typical cookie-cutter ASAE meeting. The spirit of the merged organization was unleashed in Nashville. Now it must be sustained everyday, day after day. I'll offer a few thoughts on that subject on another day. Today, I want to focus on some reflections on Nashville.
Here is the organization's new logo. I don't care what anybody else thinks...I like it. It's clean and attractive. I've always been a big fan of using lowercase only and for me this works. I love the color palette and the look and feel of the designed pieces I've seen is very attractive. Great job!
As for the name, yeah, I agree that it's a little long, but given the obscurity and complexity of some association names, I don't think it is out of bounds. I'm a little frustrated with the naysayers and nitpickers in the association community who don't (want to) "get" the Center or who argue that we'll refer to the organization only as "ASAE.' For crying out loud, it's only been a few days since the meeting ended and we're already snapping back into "let's-do-it-the-way-we've-always-done-it" mode. That mindset does a real disservice to our community. So how about this as an alternative: giving something different a chance for a change! ASAE & the Center wants to "help associations transform our society through the power of collaboration." It's a compelling and worthy cause, one that will help our community immeasurably if it is done well. In return for this reinvigorated commitment to our success, I think the least we can do is call the organization by its chosen name.
It's pretty clear to me now that a growing number of association leaders are recognizing the inexorable decline of strategic planning. (Finally!) More than one session during the Annual Meeting made the point that "strategic planning is dead" and offered alternatives to our traditional approaches. I'm thankful we're making some progress at the level of awareness. Now, we have to translate that awareness into action among forward-thinking CEOs and volunteers, and demonstrate that fresh ways of thinking about strategy can help their organizations move forward with greater confidence in the years ahead. I know it is doable, and I'll continue to write about it here, as well as on the Association Renewal Blog.
On a related point, I'm disappointed there wasn't more (okay, any) explicit discussion of innovation during this meeting. From the general session stage to the learning labs to the informal conversations, there was plenty of talk in Nashville about the profound challenges our organizations face today and going forward. These are challenges that we will be unable to meet without innovation in all facets of our strategies and structures, our operations and offers to members. Why is the innovation conversation still so difficult for association leaders? I understand that association leaders are generally risk-averse and reluctant to "spend" association resources on what they might perceive to be frivolous activities. But after three and a half years of trying to drive this conversation in a new direction, I'm feeling quite frustrated that we do not appear to have made much progress in persuading boards, CEOs and senior executives to the necessity of innovation. For the last few years, I've been working on a book on association innovation, but I had to put it on hold because I just got too busy with other stuff. Now, I think it is time to get back to the book, and I intend to do so after the first of the year. In the meantime, I am going to write an article on innovation that I hope will be published in the Journal of Association Leadership in the near future.
Let me close for now by saying it was really great to see so many friends and colleagues over the five days I was in Nashville. It is always a treat to spend time with such wonderful people from around the country, and I'm grateful for the stimulating conversations and big laughs we shared. I look forward to doing it again next year and, hopefully, at other meetings along the way. I'll have more to say soon.