“It’s About Delight”

pile of smiley face cookies

Seth Godin recently had a sort of silly story about a recent experience at Whole Foods. Which is all well and good. But one thing particularly struck me:

“It’s not about charging less. It’s about delight.”

I want to emphasize that.

It’s about delight.

Stop and think about that for a minute.

I think we don’t focus enough on the concept of creating delight when we’re creating member experiences. We think about being polite on the phone, spelling their names right, getting the renewal invoices out on time, delivering the journals to the correct address, and putting together solid conferences and useful networking events. Tactical, mundane stuff that keeps the association running smoothly, but isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

Everybody knows changing your perspective and seeing things differently can help us come to new, more creative conclusions.

So what have you done not to serve, not to handle, not to shut up, but to delight your members lately?

When – if ever – was the last time you even gave that concept consideration?

What would the world look like for your organization and constituents if delight was your focus?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Are You Creative?

If you ask a group of kindergarteners if they can sing, dance, draw, paint, act, etc., every single one of them will raise her hand.

If you ask that same group if they can read or do math, you might get a few hands, but largely, no.

If you ask a group of middle schoolers if they can read or do math, every single one of them will raise her hand.

If you ask that same group if they can sing, dance, draw, paint, act, etc., you might get a few hands, but largely, no.

We all know this. What happens? Do nearly all humans somehow become NOT creative in eight years?

No, say the guys who founded IDEO in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.

What we have to do is “reclaim our creative confidence.” In fact, it’s critical to our ability to come up with new ideas and be willing to try them – in other words, to innovate.

They identify four fears that block creativity:

  1. fear of the “messy unknown”
  2. fear of being judged
  3. fear of the first step
  4. fear of losing control

Think these apply to associations?

Fear of the messy unknown is about being uncomfortable with ambiguity. We want answers – not only AN answer, but THE answer. We like budgets that account for every pencil we’re going to buy down to the penny and that balance with a respectable 5% profit (only we call it “revenue over expense”). Our volunteer leaders like projects that start and end within their term. We want to be able to measure everything, and share a dashboard with our members that shows how awesome we are because we grew 2% over last year. We want guarantees that “it” (whatever “it” is) is going to work before we’re willing to try it. We want to invest only in sure winners.

Why? Because we fear not failure, and not even necessarily judgement, but criticism. Twenty members might love the experiment, and fifty might be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now, but if three complain, we have to shut it down. NOW. Board member? Only one person has to complain.

So if we know that we can only bet on winners and only make bets everyone agrees with and supports whole-heartedly, no wonder we can’t take the first step. Too risky.

In the end, it is all about control, or the illusion thereof. It comes from a good place – we want everything to be perfect for our members all the time – but it leads to a very bad place, known as The Land of We Have Always Done It That Way.

Where could your association go if you could learn to face and release your fears?

(Read the article – it will inspire you and maybe help you see a way out.)


“Done is the engine of more.”

A few months ago, I was having a discussion with some smart association peeps, and we got talking about the fact that, in membership organizations, it’s not so much that we fear failure for its own sake. What we really fear is criticism – from our colleagues and bosses, sure, but even more so from our members and boards.

Because of that, we’re change-averse, decision-averse, and completion-averse. If I keep working on a project forever, and never roll it out, no one can ever find anything wrong with it, right?

The thing is, all those partially completed projects that should’ve been done in 6 weeks but drag on for 6 months weigh us down. If it’s never finished, you never get to check that one off and move on to the next project or idea. You never even get to move on to the 1.2 version of the current project.

We get so caught up in the “everything has to be PERFECT” mindset that we shut out our members and their ideas and opinions, and make them passive consumers rather than active partners.

What if, rather than waiting until we had everything just so to roll out our new member service, we went to our members with: “This is a new service we’re considering. We don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, so we know some of you will want to wait to check it out until it’s in a more completed form. And that’s fine. But for those of you who are willing to try something that may not be 100% functioning yet, we’d love it if you could test it and give us your feedback so we can make sure that, once it is fully ready, it truly meets your needs and is easy for you to use.”?

What would that world look like? How much more engaged would your members be? How would that change their perception of ownership in your association? How would that impact relationships between staff, members and board? How much faster could you move? How much more could you provide for your members?