5 Key Lessons for Associations in 2022

by Jose Triana

The themes for digitalNow 2021 were rebuilding, reframing and restarting. With sessions ranging from big data and organizational culture to cyber security and innovation, our attendees got insights on how to rebuild their associations in a post-pandemic world, why their thinking should be reframed to add value for their members and whether or not the association business model needs a restart to promote growth and innovation. 

So as we close the door on the very first digitalNow since Sidecar acquired it in 2021, it’s time to look back on a few of the lessons that will impact the association industry in 2022. 

1. Data is only as strong as its context. 

On Day 1, Tricia Wang gave a keynote focused on the concept of spatial collapse between work, home and personal time along with the future of data and its uses. While it is generally agreed upon that data is a major asset for innovation, without context it is incomplete. 

An example? As just about everyone experienced in the pandemic, there were supply issues at every level. Why? Because the algorithms were smart enough to know what to order in “normal times,” but they were not ready to react to customer behaviors during a pandemic. 

Computing intelligence struggles with no context – or a human element. 

In the association space, this can translate into membership data. An increase in new members is a data point; understanding why those members joined, their goals and personal stories is the thick data you should be gathering to have a bigger impact. 

2. Cyber security threats are booming – and everyone in your organization is responsible.

The way we work has been changed forever. Remote work has become a tool for empowering staffers and helping organizations move into their digital transformation.

However, with more people working outside of the security of a local network, cyber threats have boomed. 

Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)2, gave a session on facing down today’s cyber threats and discussed the changing landscape in our mostly virtual world. Large leaks last year included over 7 million of Robinhood’s customer’s personal information being leaked and the Colonial Pipeline being shut down because of a compromised password. 

Some other important security statistics to consider?

  • Ransomware attacks occur every 11 seconds
  • Phishing emails are up 600%
  • There was $1 Trillion in losses in 2020

So what can associations do?

Treat cybersecurity concerns as people issues. This could mean hiring, training and retaining an experienced and high-level IT department. Similarly, it can also mean locking down endpoints, investing in dedicated remote work software and restricting access to admins. 

More importantly, though, it’s a matter of creating a culture of security – and that starts at the C-suite. Your team should understand the implications of security threats, how to identify them and what they could be costing your organization both financially and in terms of reputation. 

3. Failure isn’t always bad when you know how to do it. 

A major part of innovation is experimentation. But, when organizations are afraid of failure, how can they find ways for that innovative thinking? In his Day 2 keynote, Safi Bahcall discussed what it takes to be a 21st century association. 

Before saying “that will never work,” organizations instead need to be thinking “what experiment can we run?” to quantify whether or not something does work. Even if those experiments end in a failure – that doesn’t necessarily mean they were worthless.Related: 5 Key Strategies for Bringing Innovation to Life in Your Organization
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For example, Amazon attempted to create an all-new Fire Phone, which never took off. However, the same technology used for voice activation that didn’t work on the phone was later used for their Alexa devices, becoming a smash hit for the company. 

Associations should not be afraid to fail – instead, they should focus on creating a testable hypothesis and a well-crafted experiment along with a reasonable timetable and budget so organizations can innovate at scale. 

4. Establishing goals and metrics is key to more effective professional development. 

As the Great Resignation continues to be a major issue for just about any organization, empowering staffers is more important than ever. In her session, Finding and Retaining Female Leaders in Technology, Kimberly Mosley, Executive Director at Digital Analytics Association, discussed the importance of professional development. 

While many organizations have professional development, they can be elevated with a simple method – implementing objectives and metrics to accompany that professional development. 

For example, Moseley mentioned that when telling staffers they’re doing a training on a specific subject – their answer may just be “so?” However, if you tell them they’re doing this training with the goal of looking at the organizational policies and identifying two or three processes that need to be changed in light of what was learned, that is a different experience.

Not only does it empower staffers to enact change within an organization, but it also facilitates a more active learning experience when doing professional development.

5. Work is probably not where you get your best ideas.

As organizations continue to look for ways to innovate and grow, being purposeful with your culture and processes is more important than ever. In his Day 3 Keynote, Verne Harnish discussed this culture. One important factor in innovation is having a dedicated “studio” space. 

Why?

Because very few people ever said their best ideas came from work. But having that space is only one part of driving innovation for your organization. Using checklists, establishing habits and focusing on communications within your team are all part of cultural changes that need to take place too.

Of course, this is only a small sample of the information covered at digitalNow. In the coming months, we will continue to delve into these topics and give our association professionals the information they need to excel. 

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