Futureproofing: Organizational Response to Disruptive Trends

Attending my association’s annual conference in late October, I glimpsed MCABC’s future, at least what it could be through the eyes of Canada’s association leaders. The conference theme was “Associations: Future Proof,” and it provided numerous presentations and workshops on existing trends in association management and operations, and some guidance of how to lead, manage and adapt to a constantly changing world. Also noteworthy was the takeaway that millennials need our attention since demographics dictate they are literally ‘the future’ – the largest population segment to follow the baby-boom generation.

Opening keynote Ron Tite made the case in his presentation ‘The Coup: How to Lead and Create Disruption Within Organizations & Industries’ that even establishment organizations can “learn to incorporate anti-establishment behaviours into what we do so we can compete, win-back share, and even pull some of them over to our side.” His point was that sometimes success lies with turning what your organization does on its head to discover what can work better to help the association grow and prosper.

Linda Wood Edwards encouraged CEOs and board members to “Use Your Outside Voice: Acts of Courage at the Board Table.” She argued that to make boards and organizations more effective, all participants had to be called to task, whether for bad behavior, tardiness, lack of preparation, selfish interest or some other dysfunctional actions. The object is “to find ways to respectfully and safely say what needs to be said,” to retain and attract quality directors, and improve overall board satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.

And while there were several sessions on everything from ‘Talent Management Trends’ to how to conduct media interviews, perhaps one of the most engaging was David Coletto’s talk entitled “Youthquake: The Rising Power of Canada’s Millennials and What it Means for You.” The key message: get to know and engage Millennials since they represent “a new generation of consumers, employees, and citizens who were raised differently, have different values and different expectations.” And he had the data to make his case.

This last piece delivered perhaps the most important message of the conference that the focus of associations has shifted, or maybe returned to its roots. Associations are no longer primarily about valued products and services rather foremost they are about values. This theme encouraged all leaders to discover or uncover those values, demonstrate them through action and in doing so attract the membership that shares them.

As many MCABC members know, much of the learning at conferences comes from networking and CSAE is no different. Spending time with peers in contemplative discussion on what’s happening in your world is essential to learning about managing not only the day-to-day but the change that is imminent.

Trends can dictate a future that is best apprehended rather than ignored and reacted to. I would encourage every mechanical contractor to watch Tony Seba’s 2017 talk on Clean Disruption. The trends he monitors and studies will change all industry and society forever. The final outcomes may not be accurately predicted but there is no denying that they will run their course, and the results are disruptive.

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