A Call to End Best Practices for Chapters?

In an attempt to help our chapters and components improve we often do sessions and load up portals with best practices. Tools, templates and case studies that tell our chapters “here is the way to do it for success.”

Here at Mariner, we are fond of replacing “best” with “effective.” Maybe though we need to go another step.

What happens when an established practice isn’t actually the best way to solve a problem? This is the question Dan Gardner, CEO of Code and Theory, poses in Keep best practices from becoming limitation for you and your teams. He describes a culture that enables team members to think strategically about the best way to do something instead of relying on tried-and-true tactics.

He also shares how they swapped the hierarchical team structure with core pods and assigning a directly responsible individual (DRI) to each project.

What makes all this work – and the message perhaps to us with chapters and volunteers, is in the power of asking why. It’s the key to creating this culture. Do we model, expect and empower volunteers and chapters to ask why? If “why” seems risky, follow the lead in the Associations Now piece, Improving the Attendee Experience with the 5 Hows, and use “how” which gets us to human-centered design.

So instead of giving best practices on events that draw, could we provide a tool using why or how?

  • Why do members have to come to local events?
  • Why do we need events to educate?
  • Why do we have to create events as we do?
  • Why do members choose other events?
  • How do members choose what events to attend?
  • How do members decide what they need to learn?
  • How do members determine if the value matches the price?


I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tips and templates and share ideas. Are we limiting our chapters innovation when we give them the idea rather than the question?