Generative AI, Associations, Ethics, and Regulation

Maddie Grant (PROPEL), Jennifer Yarrish (AARP), Paul Roetzer (Marketing AI Institute), and I recently had a great conversation about associations’ role in the ethics of generative AI and in regulation of the technology for UST Education.

Topics we addressed included:

  • What are the critical ethical concerns related to the creation and use of generative AI tools?
  • AI has been all around us for years. What’s different about the generative AI tools that are now available to us?
  • What’s happening with regulation of generative AI tools? What are the concerns about regulating? What are the concerns about NOT regulating?
  • What role should associations be taking with regards to ethical use of generative AI for our internal operations? For member-facing programs, products, and services? For the professions and industries we serve?
  • What role should associations be taking with regards to regulation of generative AI?
  • What are some of the positive possibilities that are facilitated by the rise of generative AI technologies?

Did you miss it? Never fear! The recording is now available at the UST Education website (our webinar host).

Image credit: Ness Labs

2: Strategic Planning v. Strategic Thinking

silhouette of a person wearing a hiking backpack hiking in the mountains at sunrise

We’re almost at the end of the revisiting of the top ten all-time Spark blog posts in honor of Spark’s tenth anniversary!

Coming in at the #2 spot: Strategic Planning v. Strategic Thinking.

In the original post, I highlighted Henry Mintzberg’s well-known Harvard Business Review piece “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning,” in which he encourages us to focus on creating dynamic, flexible visions of the future that accommodate disruption and allow us to rapidly respond to emergent trends.

In other words, do 100% the opposite of what we usually do in strategic planning.

Now, I mostly do *membership* strategy for clients. But every once in a while, I have an organizational strategy project. When I do organizational strategy, I use Appreciative Inquiry methods to try to help my clients switch from a strategic planning (static, rigid, episodic, fixed) perspective to a strategic thinking approach. And it is generally a HARD mental and organizational transition for them to make, because we’re all so accustomed to the “traditional” way.

But as so many of us saw during the pandemic, the traditional way of planning fails us, and it fails us SPECTACULARLY when a crisis hits.

One of the things we learned is that we CAN rapidly gather information from our members and other stakeholders and use that to create minimum viable product style tests, then take what we learn from those tests and use it to create the next iteration of that MVP, or to change directions entirely. And the world doesn’t end if the original thing isn’t perfect, or if we do have a make a small – or big – change in the next round.

Now this mostly happened in the context of events and professional development, where all of a sudden, our traditional way of going about the business of associations was unavailable to us. But we can apply those lessons we learned, about focusing on the journey, about becoming deeply curious about our members’ and other audiences’ daily challenges, about being inventive and responsive in providing solutions those challenges, both outside event planning and outside a global pandemic.

If we’re willing to change “the way we’ve always done it.”

Are we?

Photo by Mukuko Studio on Unsplash

Being Responsible About Research

In this final post celebrating the launch of Caveat Emptor: Becoming a Responsible Consumer of Research, I want to talk about why this matters.

Why do association execs need to develop discernment about research, both as consumers and sponsors? Why do you need to have at least some familiarity with research terms? Why do you need to understand the benefits and drawbacks of various types of research methods?

Quoting from the monograph:

It’s important for associations to get this right, both so that association executives have the best possible chance of making good decisions about how to invest limited association resources to generate the best return for members, and because associations are viewed as trusted, unbiased sources of information for the members and other audiences we serve. It’s incumbent on us to provide quality research products so we remain worthy of that trust.

As a reminder, the whitepaper also includes:

  • An interview with Dr. Sharon E. Moss, co-editor (with Sarah C. Slater) of The Informed Association: A Practical Guide to Using Research for Results, on ethical practices in research.
  • An interview with Dr. Joyce E. A. Russell, The Helen and William O’Toole Dean at Villanova School of Business, on developing discernment in assessing research.
  • An interview with Jeff Tenenbaum, Managing Partner at Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC, on avoiding antitrust liability.
  • Case studies with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Casualty Actuarial Society, and IEEE.
  • A plain English review of key research terms, and a brief explanation of the rules of formal logic (and how they affect research work).
  • Recommendations for books, articles, websites, podcasts, and courses you can use to improve your research skills.
  • A series of thought questions for you to use to spark discussion with your team.
  • An extensive list of resources in case you want to dig deeper on any of the topics addressed.

My co-author Polly Karpowicz and I are in the process of arranging additional opportunities to learn more, including a webinar with Association Insights in Old Town in April of 2023 – more information to follow.

In the meantime, get your free copy at https://bit.ly/3SYJiAO, no divulging of information about yourself required.

 

Curiosity with a Purpose

As Zora Neale Hurston described it:

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

When you’re sponsoring a research study, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is what method(s) to use.

What are your choices?

  • Quantitative v. Qualitative
  • Primary v. Secondary

You also have some decisions to make about data collection. The choices there include:

  • Formal v. Informal
  • Active v. Passive

All of these choices have associated pros and cons.

For instance, surveys (quantitative primary research where the data collection is active and formal) provide numeric answers that can be described by levels of statistical significance and degrees of confidence (see yesterday’s post for more on that). That’s obviously a pro.

On the con side, because surveys provide reassuringly specific answers, it’s tempting to over-rely on them. They’re also more susceptible to design flaws that can introduce bias – and once the survey’s deployed, you can’t correct those errors without invalidating all the responses that have already come in.

So what’s the answer?

Download the new Spark collaborative whitepaper Caveat Emptor: Becoming a Responsible Consumer of Research to find out!

“P-Value”? What’s a “P-Value”?

And why should you care?

Associations generate a lot of original research, but association execs also use a lot of research created by other entities both to assess the internal operations of the association as a tax-exempt business and to understand what’s happening in the industry or profession the association serves.

And let’s face it: Lots of research terms are pretty jargon-y. P-values and margin of error and confidence interval and representative versus purposeful samples, oh my!

It’s easy to find yourself glazing over in the methods section of the study you’ve chosen, ignoring it all together, or just deciding not to worry about what it reports.

That would be a mistake.

All those things directly affect the validity of the study and the results presented, results which we use every day to make decisions for our associations and the professions and industries we serve.

Quoting the new Spark collaborative whitepaper Caveat Emptor: Becoming a Responsible Consumer of Research:

Good research does not guarantee good decisions, but it certainly helps. And bad research, barring getting lucky and guessing right, almost inevitably leads to bad decisions.

We want you to have everything you need to make good decisions, so in Caveat Emptor, my co-author Polly Karpowicz and I provide plain English explanations of key terms in research design so that you can build your information literacy muscles and choose wisely what research you will – and won’t – trust.

Get your free copy at https://bit.ly/3SYJiAO, no divulging of information about yourself required.

 

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics?

Association execs consume – and produce – a lot of research in our day-to-day work, but most of us don’t have formal training in research. A lot of the language of research programs– p-values and confidence intervals and margins of error – can be pretty jargony, and some of the concepts behind what makes for good (or less good) research can be challenging for people who haven’t had the opportunity to take a graduate level methods course.

How can you be sure that the research you’re using or sponsoring is giving you the insight you need to make good decisions? How can you protect your association’s reputation as a trusted source of unbiased information for the profession or industry you serve?

In the latest Spark collaborative whitepaper, Caveat Emptor: Becoming a Responsible Consumer of Research, Polly Karpowicz, CAE and I tackle the sometimes thorny issue of what you need to know to be a savvy consumer and sponsor of research even if you DON’T have a formal background in research methods or much formal training (which, let’s be honest, most of us don’t).

The whitepaper also includes:

  • An interview with Dr. Sharon E. Moss, co-editor (with Sarah C. Slater) of The Informed Association: A Practical Guide to Using Research for Results, on ethical practices in research.
  • An interview with Dr. Joyce E. A. Russell, The Helen and William O’Toole Dean at Villanova School of Business, on developing discernment in assessing research.
  • An interview with Jeff Tenenbaum, Managing Partner at Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC, on avoiding antitrust liability.
  • Case studies with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Casualty Actuarial Society, and IEEE.
  • A plain English review of key research terms, and a brief explanation of the rules of formal logic (and how they affect research work).
  • Recommendations for books, articles, websites, podcasts, and courses you can use to improve your research skills.
  • A series of thought questions for you to use to spark discussion with your team.
  • An extensive list of resources in case you want to dig deeper on any of the topics addressed.

I’ll be blogging about the whitepaper more in the coming days, highlighting some of our major findings, but in the meantime I invite you to download your free copy at https://bit.ly/3SYJiAO – we don’t collect any data on you to get it, and you won’t end up on some mailing list you didn’t ask for. We just use the bit.ly as an easy mechanism to count the number of times it’s been downloaded.

And don’t forget to check out some of the other FREE Spark collaborative whitepapers, too, on topics ranging from content curation to digital transformation, blockchain, DEI, lean startup, member-centric engagement, and more!

Learning By Doing

Learning by Doing

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the January 2022 Association Insights In Old Town (ASAE login required) virtual educational session, Better Engage Your Members and Attendees to Solve Association Problems, led by Better Meetings‘s Lee Gimpel.

It was one of the best educational sessions I’ve attended in some time.

Lee crafted an effective and highly interactive session that showed rather than told us how to craft a session that would actually get people working with each other in a fun but not intimidating way.

We’ve all been to virtual events that promise to be highly engaging and then do it by putting people into small (sometimes too small) group breakout rooms for exercises that some of the participants may not find to be particularly useful/applicable, or that are too heavy a lift. We try to create something so that people don’t just sit there passively and listen (half-listen while “multi-tasking,” aka “the session is running in the background but I’m not paying attention – I’m answering email”), but we overshoot and ask too much of  people.

Lee’s session was structured to illustrate the principles of:

  1. Conveying to participants that we value their input
  2. Saving ourselves from assuming we have the right answer
  3. Getting participants to interact
  4. Teaching people a technique to use in their organizations
  5. Meeting people

Without much preamble, he put us into breakout rooms to do introductions with an easy-lift icebreaker. Then he brought us back together and posed a question for a “chat waterfall.” Then he explained what we were going to work on together: Brainstorming ideas for non-dues revenue on a Google sheet. It was set up so we were working in parallel breakout rooms. The focus wasn’t on conversation, although we were in small enough groups that we could discuss if we wanted to, which kept the shared workspace from becoming unmanageable. He then brought us back together for a final pass on the sum total work we’d created together and a little theory about how he constructed the session.

I asked him about his thinking in putting the session together and he pointed me to an article he wrote for Forbes (that you should really check out, as it might disabuse you of the notion that what you’ve been promoting as “highly interactive” sessions is really delivering on that) and also shared this insight:

We can actually do a lot in an hour, but teaching people what we’re doing cuts the actual working time by about half. With more time, we’d really want to complete the loop: generate a bunch of ideas –> refine them down to our favorites (the star voting, etc.) –> discuss those in depth, add action steps, etc.

The hour flew by, we were all actually interacting and contributing, we learned by doing, and I met some new people and learned just a little bit about them. Mission accomplished!

Oh, and did I mention? We generated a terrific list of ideas for non-dues revenue that’s just sitting there for anyone who might want to use it. So you should definitely check that out, too.

Photo by Ismail Salad Osman Hajji dirir on Unsplash

Digital Transformation: Where Do I Start?

This is what it really comes down to, right?

Learning about what digital transformation is (and isn’t), why it matters, what barriers are unique to associations, what advantages our industry has – that’s all interesting and useful.

But how do you actually accomplish digital transformation in your association?

Maddie Grant, my co-author for The No BS Guide to Digital Transformation: How Intentional Culture Change Can Propel Associations Forward, and I have you covered:

  1. Assess where you are now.
  2. Secure leadership support and a funding commitment.
  3. Identify strategic areas where digital tech could make a difference.
  4. Review your legacy systems and processes (make sure you’ve got the “digitizing” part covered, for Ross/Mocker fans).
  5. Recruit your team.
  6. Get comfortable with experimenting (for more on how to do this, see the earlier Spark collaborative whitepaper Innovate the Lean Way).
  7. Improve your culture management.

THEN AND ONLY THEN, chose your tech investments and make it happen.

For more on how to do all that – including case studies of associations that have (the Construction Specifications Institute, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, and the School Nutrition Association) – download the full whitepaper at https://bit.ly/3y4O6dy, no divulging of information about yourself required.

Culture Change + Vendor Selection

As my The No BS Guide to Digital Transformation: How Intentional Culture Change Can Propel Associations Forward co-author Maddie Grant is fond of quipping, that’s what digital transformation is: culture change + vendor selection.

The technologies of digital transformation are:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Cloud
  • Data analytics
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Mobile
  • Social
  • Web

First of all, you don’t want a cloud strategy, or an AI strategy, or a social strategy – you need well-thought-out organizational strategy that includes these things. The tech is not the end – it’s the means to the end of accomplishing your larger organizational goals in a member-centric way. 

But it’s the culture part that gets really tricky. In order to be successful, you’ll need strong, consistent support from your C-suite (and your board or volunteer leadership), actively providing direction and the resources for that change to happen, and that involves identifying and, as necessary, adjusting your culture patterns.

To learn more about how you do that, download the full whitepaper at https://bit.ly/3y4O6dy, no divulging of information about yourself required.

Why Do Associations Struggle With Digital Transformation?

In our research for The No BS Guide to Digital Transformation: How Intentional Culture Change Can Propel Associations Forward, Maddie Grant and I learned that, while associations definitely still have work to do on the technology front, it’s not technology that’s holding our industry back: it’s culture, and more specifically, culture change.

This is also why a lot of the copious digital transformation advice that exists don’t quite hit the mark for associations: for-profit culture is fundamentally different than association culture. 

On one level, that’s because a member =/= a customer.

However, associations also struggle with awkward collaboration, reactive transparency, uneven discipline, and unclear priorities.

To learn more about all of these, and what your association can do to overcome them and use what makes member relationships special to accelerate your transformation efforts, download the full whitepaper at https://bit.ly/3y4O6dy, no divulging of information about yourself required.