Having the Courage to Think Differently

Dan Stark, Director of Product Strategy


​Throughout my career in association management, I focused heavily on bringing transformational change to associations. One of the barriers I frequently went up against was an organizational aversion to risk. All new ideas come with associated risk, and in the association world, resource constraints make it more difficult to embark on initiatives that could potentially end in failure. At the same time, we know many of the greatest innovations were born out of failure and iteration. So, what structural changes can associations make to increase their risk tolerance?

In Part 1 of our recent eBook  series, “Transcending the Traditional,” we talk about a different approach to governance and leadership that would give decision makers a more accurate picture of opportunities, and thus, mitigate some of the risk. Beyond that, we discuss the adoption of an innovative culture, which starts at the top, but also requires buy-in at all levels of the organization. As we point out in Part 3 of our series, many of the associations we see during our product demonstrations are trapped in an avalanche of processes, preventing them from being able to think about innovative ways to approach program development and management.

One of the solutions we highlight in our third eBook is adoption of the Agile Methodology as a way to bring more ownership, collaboration, and transparency to the work of the association. Using this methodology will allow your teams to continually assess progress toward organizational goals. In doing so, they will have the freedom to fail, assess, and iterate more quickly, reducing the potential impact of the risks associated with bringing new programs to market.

The are many opportunities for innovation in today’s association marketplace. The key to success is to provide a framework within which the entire organization has the opportunity and empowerment to experiment. One of the things to consider as you aim to create a culture of innovation is the solutions you have at your disposal to facilitate the work of your team. The combination of effective solutions and the freedom to be creative will allow your team to accelerate your organization into the future.

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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