Channeling the Futurist in You (& Your Association) | #ASAE15

I think you’d have to be asleep at the wheel not to be aware of three current trends that Sheryl Connelly shared at #ASAE15 annual conference: the decline of the “one-size-fits-all” mentality for more individualized
segmentation, the growth of ethical consumption as a way for consumers to convey their values, and a voracious appetite for data and information.  So the aha in Ford Motor Company’s manager of global trends and futuring’s Game Changer session wasn’t trends but how to channel your inner futurist.

Kate Bascuas offers a succinct recap from Sheryl’s session Think Like a Futurist to Identify Trends Affecting Your Association. Caution – it will require that we do away with two tools of the trade: SWOT and membership
5-year trend report. To which I personally shout hooray!

Every time someone says to me “we need to do a SWOT analysis” I cringe. And I do so doubly when well-intentioned HQ associations tell their chapters to do this. Sheryl’s comments capture two critical reasons why SWOT should
be swatted down: (1) it’s based on your present point of view; and (2) the marketplace actually decides your strengths (not you!) and – here’s the game changer – a strength can become a weakness overnight.

She missed a third big reason: this analysis doesn’t drive innovation or even change. It’s just a check box in a planning process. We boost our egos over our strengths and spend precious time arguing over whether an attribute is
a weakness or out of our control.

While she specifically picked on SWOT tool, Sheryl didn’t say ditch the membership trend report. What she did say was “the past is not a good indicator of the future” because:

“Innovation is a mainstay in the marketplace, so if you look to the past, any sort of trend line that you had in terms of sales or market share participation, they’re really going to be all over the board. Don’t expect your past to be your compass to go forward.”

When we scrutinize our membership trends we stay locked into our current membership model and we focus on how many. For 20 years, we’ve been saying it’s not how many members but how much of each member you have.

Kudos to Sheryl Connelly for giving us a fishing lesson rather than a fish.

P.S. I wasn’t able to attend #ASAE15 in person, but followed on Twitter, Facebook, AssociationsNow Live Blog. Check it out for more tidbits.