Sometimes a simple definition helps. The definition of innovation we find most useful is “a change that makes something better.” There is no reference to scale. Little changes can make a big difference. Big changes can make little difference. The notion of “disruption” as a measure of significance has been proselytized by the same cheerleaders for “paradigm shift”, “sea change”, “race” and “_________ (fill in the blank) will never be the same.”
We observe that most innovations in associations that demonstrate lasting value are the result of:
- a focus on value as perceived by the user rather than the provider;
- evolution rather than revolution; and (c) experiment and adjustment.
Our experience affirms Lepore’s essay and Mark synthesis of its insight. We believe that appeals to the anxiety of the uninformed or un-confident may be a great promotional technique, but it seldom produces lasting value for others.
It may be that the exponentially increasing pace of change today is perhaps the source of the “panic” referenced in Mark’s cogent article which makes it harder to see the steps and confluence of variables that led up to a “disruption.”
So, what is the primary barrier to innovation in associations? Most association leaders are in favor of innovation. But, not all association leaders will risk experimentation. We find that a policy that commits to experimentation and innovation and describes how “risk” will be managed goes a long way to nurturing a culture of informed inquiry and continuous improvement.
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