Read Jeff De Cagna's latest article on business model innovation

Jeff De Cagna’s latest article on business model innovation, “Designing Association Business Models for the Network Age,” is now available for download. The article appears in the August/September 2012 issue of Association Magazine, the official publication of the Canadian Society of Association Executives. Jeff will lead a three-hour workshop on this same topic at CSAE’s National Conference in Ottawa, Ontario on Thursday, November 1, 2012.

In the article, Jeff identifies four “design continuums” association leaders can use to create new business models that are both adaptive and resilient:

+Act in real time to connect with long-term outcomes–The typical association business model operates on a slow-running internal clock that is synchronized to carefully-crafted organizational schedules for strategic and operational planning, budgeting and governing activities. Associations can increase their pace of new value creation by thinking and acting in real time to understand and serve immediate stakeholder priorities and problems, but on their stakeholders’ terms. By paying close attention to the exchanges of value occurring within stakeholder networks, associations can use their real time orientation to nurture a more empathic understanding of who their stakeholders are and what really matters to them in the long term.

+Build a fully digital platform to create a meaningful presence–Current association business models tend to rely on hybrid value creation platforms that combine some digital elements with long-standing physical/in-person offers and experiences, including print magazines, books and other physical products, as well as annual meetings, conferences and other face-to-face events.  Associations can develop adaptive business models by building out more robust digital platforms capable of integrating various streams of conversation as they are shared across the global public sphere. In addition, associations can bring greater richness to those conversations by infusing them with their curated wisdom, and by more fully engaging their broader networks of stakeholders to participate, without seeking to control them.

+Accelerate critical flows to access hidden assets–Membership-centric association business models tend to favor flows of value between and among members, i.e., those stakeholders who have paid the association for the opportunity to participate in its traditional activities, within its traditional boundaries. Too often, however, the contributions of stakeholders who have failed to embrace the membership value proposition with their financial support are regarded as less valuable only because of the decision not to join the association.  To build more adaptive business models, associations need to reject limits and focus instead on scaling networks to include more knowledgeable and passionate contributors capable of creating accelerated flows of value, regardless of whether those contributors are interested in membership.

+Develop smart value to shape thick value–As mentioned above, traditional association business models still tend to emphasize the creation and delivery of value in either a physical or in-person form, typically developed using reported data collected from stakeholders through various types of physical and online survey instruments. This approach is proving to be less attractive, however, as today’s stakeholders have been deluged with survey requests from every conceivable direction. Through the creation of more fully digital platforms, however, associations can begin to develop “smart value” offers capable of capturing real-time data developed from actual stakeholder use. These smart value offers can be designed to directly influence stakeholder behavior in positive ways.

Please post reactions and questions for Jeff in the comments below. If you would like to collaborate with Jeff on the critical work of innovating your association’s business model, please send an inquiry with the details of your request.

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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