Fact: Our society is experiencing the steepest technology learning curve in history. The proliferation of technology in all aspects of our lives is causing a rapid shift in the business environment that associations must address and embrace to survive. Combined with challenges that range from shifting demographics to a demand for new member and revenue models, associations are facing a new reality.
The digitalNOW 2017 conference explored not only these challenges, but also the opportunities digitization affords the association world. Dynamic Benchmarking Co-founder, Lisa Vivinetto and I had the opportunity to attend this progressive event and came away with a number of valuable takeaways that we wanted to share with you.
The prevalence of technology in all aspects of our lives has not only made personalization and customization possible, but expected. The Internet of Things has created a data monolith that is still in its infancy. Keynote speaker, Timothy Chou, explored how exponentially increasing access to an expansive menu of services, knowledge and resources has created an expectation for personalized and relevant experiences in all aspects of our lives, whether it be learning, technology, services, or other offerings. We are faced with a population that is no longer content with one-size-fits-all solutions. Associations need to find ways to capitalize on these trends and deliver experiences that are tailored to each unique member.
Education and training are disappearing and learning is taking its place. While these terms may seem interchangeable, there is a vast difference between education, training and learning. Education and training are curriculum-based processes conducted in a linear, one-and-done fashion. Learning is more experiential and can, and should, be consumed in small doses, often on an as-needed or just-in-time basis. In her keynote address, Dr. Britt Andreatta, examined the role associations play in cultivating the potential of their members and the industries they serve by embracing the shift toward a lifelong learning model for their educational offerings. The reality is, the old model of going to school and then embarking on a career is gone. Lifelong learning is the new model as rapid changes in technology make ongoing learning a necessity to keep pace with one’s industry.
Organizations must shift to measuring the growth of competencies rather than hours spent in the classroom. Competence is now being measured more by having the skills to complete a project today rather than degrees earned in a classroom or even online. The shift is toward incremental, project-based learning rather than curriculum-based degrees. Knowledge is being delivered and skills developed on an as-needed basis to keep pace with the continuous stream of technology-driven innovations in all industries. The bottomline: technology is transforming learning for all and associations are poised to either capitalize on this trend or succumb to competitors. Some of the best ways to make the shift toward learning include:
- Offering frequent and varied opportunities to learn
- Focusing on outcomes rather than curriculum
- Shifting from traditional, long-form learning content and events to microlearning using modular, on-demand content
The biggest threats to digital innovation lie within an organization. Research from the MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital 2016 study on digital trends reveals how organizations continue to struggle to transform through digital innovation. While nearly 90% of respondents to the annual global survey anticipate their industries will be disrupted by digital trends to a great or moderate extent, only 44% say their organizations are adequately preparing for the disruptions to come. The session, “The Roles of Talent and Culture in Aligning the Association for Its Digital Future”, takes a look at how digitally maturing companies are aligning their people, processes and culture to achieve long-term digital success. Some of the more common attributes of digitally mature companies include:
- Seeking out employees that possess an appetite for risk and experimentation as well as a solid fit with their corporate culture. Skills can be taught, but changing personalities and aligning values is much more difficult.
- Fostering environments that encourage creativity. Creativity is the one core skill that computers cannot replicate.
- Making a sustained investment in continuous learning to provide a supportive environment that encourages personal growth to improve and retain talent.
Strategic innovation should be a continuous, incremental effort. Just as one wouldn’t climb Mount Everest in a single, continuous climb, neither should an organization seek to tackle a major innovation all at once. The session “Climbing the Mountain to Strategic Innovation”, led by Tim Fish, likened the path of implementing strategic innovations to reaching the various summits of a mountain, with each summit being a small, yet critical step toward the final more significant summit, which is your ultimate goal. Key takeaways from this session include:
- Your final ‘summit’ should be a truly great idea - something disruptive/difficult/innovative.
- Your climb should be a continuous and collaborative process involving people, processes and technology.
- Validate your ideas and concepts by successfully reaching smaller summits/goals along the path toward the final summit.
- Adapt your team and resources as needed to not only reach your summit, but also to descend from it (e.g., implement your innovation).
digitalNOW offered a wealth of insight into emerging trends in technology and their effects on associations. We came away from the conference feeling energized and full of ideas to implement internally as well as to share with our clients. The concepts above only scratch the surface of the great ideas being explored at this conference. We look forward to attending the event next year and hope that you will join us.