Driving Innovation by Transcending the Traditional

Dan Stark, Director of Product Strategy

​Having served as an association executive director for more than 10 years, and now as a technology company executive for three years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to observe the governance structure of associations from two different perspectives.

As an ED, I always had an amazing amount of respect for what I viewed as the inclusivity of the governance structure. By that, I mean not only a willingness, but also an insistence upon engaging the broader membership in setting the association’s strategic direction.

On the flipside, as a technology executive, I’ve seen the extent to which the traditional structure has the potential to slow down the decision-making process, and can ultimately prevent associations from embracing an innovative culture. So, how can associations increase the pace of the decision-making process, while at the same time maintaining inclusivity?

To help us understand, we need to take a step back and look at the traditional governance structure; it relies heavily on processes designed to solicit ample feedback, but in doing so, requires significant lead time. As an example, let’s consider the time it would typically take to adopt a new membership structure.

In a traditional structure, this adoption might start with the creation of a taskforce to study the topic over a period of months. The product of that effort might be a series of recommendations presented to the board. Upon receiving the recommendations, the board might approve a new membership model, which would likely require a change to the organization’s bylaws. Those changes would need to be drafted, and the process for the bylaws’ changes would have to be followed. At some point, it would probably include a vote of the membership. Assuming the membership adopts the changes, these would go into effect during some transition period. Having done this during my tenure as an ED, I can say it took more than two years.

The truly innovative associations are the ones that are able to compress the time it takes to make decisions,  while at the same time including broad feedback from stakeholders.  In Part 1 of our four-part eBook series, “Transcending the Traditional,” we share in-depth insights into how associations can start on the path to innovation by making intelligent predictive decisions, adopting future-facing governance, and fostering an innovative culture.

About the Author: Dan Stark is the Director of Product Strategy for NimbleUser. His role is to ensure Nimble AMS anticipates the needs of associations. He has 25 years of nonprofit management experience including more than 10 years as an executive director of two different organizations. He has a wealth of experience in governance, strategic planning and change management. With the rare combination of experience as both an association and technology company executive, Dan inherently understands how to leverage technology to drive innovation. He lives and works in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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