What's Next(Gen)?

What's Next(Gen)?

By Joe Lindahl, Senior Operations Manager

I recently had the honor of being selected as an ASAE’s NextGen Summit participant, where I had the chance to attend a retreat for emerging leaders to come together and discuss association trends and topics along with personal and professional development. Enough knowledge was passed along to make my head hurt, but in an invigorating and energizing way. I can’t share everything – I probably wouldn’t do it justice and I also can’t write a novel (though I could) – so below are my three favorite takeaways.

 NextGen Group Photo

1. We’re Not Alone

Not in like a cosmic sense, but association and communities are thinking more outside their normal silos. We are more connected than ever before, and not necessarily just people, but ideas and values. For example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are a potential roadmap for organizations and associations to think about their responsibility in a global society. Beyond the education, products, advocacy and public policy, and whatever else is in the mission statement of an organization – potential members and participants look toward associations and companies for what they do and don’t do for the general good. It is tempting, and certainly my default, to believe none of these UN goals meet the central purpose of our association is supposed to do, but I would be hard pressed to say the downfall of say, quality education or clean water, wouldn’t affect our members or our industry at some level. So maybe instead of a 10,000 foot view during strategic discussions and planning, it may be 100,000 feet.

Bottom line: Rethink strategic planning to include positioning your association as a global contributor.

2. If You Think Alexa Is Smart

Just wait till you read more about artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputers. I was aware that smart scientists had create computers that could be a chess champion that Amazon has these robots in their warehouses, and IBM’s Watson has some fairly clever commercials. But the real affect that AI may have on our world is nearly incomprehensible, not an exaggeration. One example – the human brain has approximately 38 petaflops. The measurement isn’t as important as knowing that there is now a 200 petaflop capable IBM US Summit computer. In 2010, the most we could muster was a 1.75. So the computers are getting smarter and quickly.

AI has experienced incredible breakthroughs – Google’s DeepMind has been able to create AI that demonstrates memory, attention, concepts, planning, navigation, and imagination. I most certainly do not have all of these cognitive abilities.

So think, what does this mean for our association, our industry, and our members? What skills will the new workforce need to have? Will there even be certain jobs in 5 or 10 years? It’s a bit scary and stressful, but if we are proactive and opportunistic, associations may be even more valuable in preparing people with skills needed to engage with AI and robotics

Bottom line: The AI and supercomputing evolution is coming – have a plan on what the next five to 10 years will affect your members and association.  

3. Slow-Motion is a Terrific Movie Effect

But sometimes makes it hard for association’s to read and react to member and professional needs. Part of it is the sheer make-up of associations – we often rely on volunteers to do the heavy-lifting to create products, resources, and education that increase the value of membership.
There are several downsides to this time suck. One, customers expect quicker turnarounds. Apple puts out a new iPhone every year and if we don’t get a package from Amazon in two days we freak out. Why would our customer’s expectations be any different?

Two, associations are facing increasing competition for for-profit entities, much of it to do with consolidation. Education is a space association’s traditionally own, but what happens when the Lynda.com/LinkedIn/Microsoft mega child enters. They have the resources to find the best subject matter experts, provide online badges or certificates, and a vast amount of data to market their products to customers.

Third and finally, customer and member needs change at a rapid pace. What they wanted in January may not be the same in October. If your association cannot deliver in a timely manner, people will find what they need elsewhere.

Bottom line: Outside competition is real, so deliver on member and customer needs now or risk becoming irrelevant.

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