The Executive - May/June 2016 - (Page 7)

CHAIR'S MESSAGE A Few Thoughts on Innovation I f ever there was a "loaded" word in association management, "innovation" would certainly be near the top of the list. All kinds of thoughts and expectations spring from this word in my discussions with other executives, and the pressure to be innovative is especially acute for California associations considering the nearby presence of Silicon Valley. The concept of innovation and associations was the focus of the recent Insights executive retreat held at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. With that in mind, I thought I would share a few thoughts and takeaways on the subject. Let me start with a simple definition that CalSAE uses for innovation in our Strategic Plan, which is "the process of creating and delivering new value for members." For us, innovation is about making changes, often a series of small ones, to improve something about the organization-ultimately adding value for our members. Bigger innovations (a new product, a different way of doing business) often have many smaller pieces that interrelate-so big changes are often dependent on or a product of many small factors being done well. In my estimation, associations are trying to innovate all the time. However, we often get frustrated that the changes don't occur or fall short of expectations. Why is that? At the top of the list is building a culture of innovation. The executive director is often the single biggest influence on culture within an association. What was emphasized at Insights is the need to be consistent over time in how you approach problem solving, make changes or generate new ideas. In reviewing the attendee evaluations of Insights, for example, the vast majority of CEOs commented how they were going to communicate more about innovation-with their staff and with their boards. To include or increase innovation as a part of your culture requires an ongoing dialogue and an ongoing process. The simple, yet difficult, task of consistently using processes and communications about innovation is a big part of making it happen. The Insights retreat focused on innovation and "translating intent into reality." While many people define innovation as the ability to be creative (and often don't think of themselves as creative), the framework of the discussion centered on very practical things that most association executives are good at - systems, process, communications, using tools, asking questions, etc. In other words, using processes and communicating consistently can have a big impact on the culture of innovation. A practical takeaway for me was to ask more questions and do so regularly. Having a truly open mind and listening to questions that are being asked is often easier said than done. However, one terrific new tool I learned was called "question-storming." The process is so simple and yet can be so productive. * Step one in question-storming is to take an idea or proposal that is being developed within the organization but still needs some work or reflection. You then have a question-storming session with your team (or Board). During this phase, only questions are asked. It's like brainstorming, but with questions. You don't judge the questions and you don't try to answer them. You just gather the questions. By Jim Anderson, CAE * The next phase, like a brainstorming session, is to prioritize the questions. You can do this by grouping the questions into themes-and then deciding as a group which questions seem to be the most important, need answers, should be addressed first, etc. * The prioritized set of questions should then go a long way toward informing you of the next steps or additional work that is needed. A terrific outcome of the question-storming approach is allowing people to voice their concerns in a safe way without being confrontational. In addition, you get the full weight of your team's insights and generate questions that you may not have thought to ask yourself. We did a five-minute question-storming session in small groups at Insights-and I was so impressed with the quality of the questions that I vowed to use this technique with my team. Another important technique for the executive in making innovation happen is to regularly check-in with the staff and volunteer (Board) teams. We know it is natural for people to resist change, even when they know change may be needed. And, let's be honest, innovation is hard work-you've got to plan for making changes while still doing the daily work of the organization. It's also easy to forget that people process information differently-and that there are complex layers to making change. So a few other practical takeaways (questions) I was reminded of at Insights include: * How well do I really "test" to see the level of understanding of the various members of a team? * Are they aware of and understand what we are trying to achieve? * Can they see how it impacts what is important to them? In leading change or helping others understand the need for change, I was also reminded the importance of communicating change from different angles-and what might be important to others. For example, * What might make it logical? * What might make it emotionally engaging? * What might make it tangible and practical? I also want to thank Jen Blenkle of Frameworks, who did a terrific job facilitating Insights. She works with associations all the time on making innovation happen and you can contact her at Finally, for those of you who like to read, I thought I would share some of the books that were recommended by Jen, such as Collective Genius, The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation; Creativity, Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration; andTeaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. C a l S A E ' s TH E E X E C UTI VE - M A Y / J UN E 2 0 1 6 7

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Executive - May/June 2016

Chair’s Message
At a Glance Tech Tools: Create the Ultimate Video Marketing Plan in 4 Steps Blog Spot: Three Principles to Awaken Your Association Force Leadership by the Numbers: Safety & Security at Meetings
Calendar of Events
Selecting Edtech That Deepens Learning
How to Maintain High-Touch Relationships in High-Tech Times
Innovation, Technology and Change: The Future Is Here Now
How to Start or Grow Your Career Management Site
Advancing Associations: The Power of Past Presidents
Destination Anaheim
New Members
Member Spotlight: Alan Wald
Index to Advertisers

The Executive - May/June 2016