What is Associations Unorthodox?

Now that my new e-book, Associations Unorthodox: Six Really Radical Shifts Toward the Future, has been out for a couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to step back and reflect on the reasons why I wrote it, as well as its deeper implications for association leaders. I hope this post helps to explain my motivations, and places the e-book in a broader context.

+Associations Unorthodox is a set of approaches for breaking free of the past–The six shifts discussed in the e-book were not accidental selections. Each shift deals with an important area of association management in which doing what has always been done too often trumps the hard work of building our organizations to thrive, even right now when the latter is both an urgent priority and a non-trivial concern. It is impossible to overstate the toll that so many decades of largely unquestioned obedience to orthodoxy have taken on our collective capacity to imagine better ways of doing business. By publicly challenging some of our community’s most sacred beliefs, I have tried to create a space for association leaders to do the same inside their own organizations. By proposing unconventional alternatives to our current ways of working, I have tried to infuse the practice of association leadership with a stronger 21st century sensibility.

+Associations Unorthodox is a platform for thinking differently about the future–It is clear that not every association will be able or willing to implement all of the six shifts as they are presented in the e-book, nor should they feel compelled to do so. Far too much of the advice given to boards, CEOs and senior executives today implies there is only one right way to correct the problems facing their organizations. Associations Unorthodox, on the other hand, is not an inflexible set of prescriptions, but a platform for asking more provocative questions, leading to more penetrating answers developed through more powerful learning. Discovery and design live at the heart of the Associations Unorthodox conversation. By asking different questions inspired by the six shifts and fully exploring the opportunities they surface, association leaders can discover more compelling ways of creating thicker and smarter value for their stakeholders. By trusting in their own ability to choose a different trajectory for their organizations, association leaders can design adaptive and resilient business models and systems to make their organizations sustainable going forward.

+Associations Unorthodox is a manifesto advocating on behalf of the next generation of stakeholders–A consistent theme of this e-book is the need for associations to focus their attention on the most important personal and professional outcomes their future stakeholders are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, the voices of these stakeholders are rarely heard in association boardrooms or senior team meetings. Associations Unorthodox makes clear that associations must respect the forces of societal transformation that are altering the rules of the game for everyone, especially the next generation of stakeholders, for whom these forces will continue to shape (and reshape) the demanding terrain of their 21st century lives. Through this e-book, I have tried to advocate on behalf of stakeholders who have far more options than their predecessors, but can always benefit from having more of them, so long as they perceive those options to be legitimate, serious and meaningful. By implementing the approaches presented in this e-book, I am confident associations can reach that place. By internalizing the Associations Unorthodox platform, I am confident they will be able to thrive there.

What do you think? What are you taking away from Associations Unorthodox? How will it help your association prepare for the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



Jeff De Cagna

Jeff De Cagna is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC, and a contrarian thinker on strategy, business models, governing and the future of associations.

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