I’m excited to share that I’ll be speaking at Association Success’s inaugural SURGE virtual event, November 7-9.
Around the world, thousands of association professionals confront the same challenges. We all have insights to offer on how to grow, adjust, adapt and innovate.
SURGE 2017 is designed to bring all these challenges and voices together under one virtual roof to have a productive and meaningful conversation around innovation. SURGE 2017 participants will have exclusive access to sessions centered on transformative, forward-thinking solutions to the challenges we all encounter.
The sessions will be pre-recorded and played at set times in the Association Success platform. Meanwhile attendees will be able to communicate simultaneously with both each other and the speakers. We want to see what happens when we foster participation and knowledge-sharing amongst thousands of people, with each individual thinking and talking collaboratively.
My session, scheduled to run Thursday, November 9 from noon – 1 pm ET, will be on using lean startup methodology in the association industry and will feature my Innovate the Lean Way co-author Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, CIO at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) and Ann Mei Chang, Executive Director of Lean Impact.
But the adventure into collaborative innovation begins long before the event. Immediately upon registration, you can connect with likeminded individuals in the forum, contribute to the idea box, participate by answering a session-related question, and absorb expert insights on the blog.
The aim of SURGE 2017 is to spark collaborative innovation. Click here for more information or to reserve your free spot at the summit now!
Today marks five years since I launched Spark Consulting. As I look back on the past five years, I have much to be grateful for. Leading that list is all the people who’ve contributed to the success of this Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
First, I have to thank all my wonderful clients. Spark would not exist without each and every one of you. I particularly want to thank the American Chemical Society, my very first client, for being willing to take a risk on hiring the new kid in town, and Ross Simons for making the connection between a brand-new consultant and her first lead. Over the years, many of my clients have referred me to their colleagues and/or hired me again for additional projects. I can’t express how grateful I am for their confidence in me and my work.
Back in late 2011, I was working for the Children’s Hospitals Association. I’d been there for a few years and was starting to think about my next move. At the time, I was thinking it would be my first CEO position, leading a small association. I’d been in the biz for 14 years at that point, had my CAE and an MA, had worked in a wide variety of functional areas in association management leading a variety of different types and sizes of teams, and had even served as an acting CEO for a small association. I started applying for those types of positions, despite the fact that when I mentioned I was looking for my next gig, the nearly universal response was, “So you’re launching your own consulting business, right?” I want to thank Shira Harrington (Purposeful Hire) for being the one who helped me understand that being a consultant would be a better path for me.
Maddie Grant, Lindy Dreyer, and Jamie Notter came over to my house on a cold winter afternoon and helped me figure out what I wanted to call this new consulting business, how I wanted to frame the work I wanted to do, how brand Spark and myself, and brainstormed my clever URL (in which a discussion about “GetMeJamieNotter” led to “GetMeSpark”).
When I was starting out, I was fortunate to be invited to join a Mastermind Group that served as my kitchen cabinet, pushed me to define my goals, and helped me think through how to overcome the barriers to achieving them. Leslie White, Peggy Hoffman, Shira Harrington, KiKi L’Italien, and Sohini Baliga kept me on the right path during those critical first two years.
One of the most useful things I learned studying for the CAE 14 years ago was to know what you are – and aren’t – good at, and make sure to surround yourself with great people who know and can do what you can’t. I’ve been fortunate to work with four outstanding vendors on the tasks I can’t do for myself: Bean Creative for my website, ImagePrep for all my graphic design needs, Andrew Mirsky (Mirsky Law Group) for all my contracts and other legal needs, and Moran & Company for bookkeeping, accounting, and tax advice and planning.
My original career goal, back in college, was to be a university professor. I’ve always loved research and writing, particularly long-form essays. One of the most personally and professionally fulfilling things I’ve been able to do since launching Spark is the Spark collaborative white paper series. I now have the freedom to research and write, diving into topics that interest me and that I think are important for our industry.
I’ve been fortunate to work with a host of fantastic contributors for the nine existing monographs: Jeff De Cagna, George Breeden, Tom Lehman, Jamie Notter, Leslie White, Peggy Hoffman, Peter Houstle, Anna Caraveli, Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, Shelly Alcorn, Polly Siobhan Karpowicz, Tracy Petrillo, Sherry Marts, Joe Gerstandt, Jess Pettitt, and Joan Eisenstodt.
I also want to thank the many association executives who were willing to share the stories of their organizations’ work, struggles, and triumphs in the case studies that illustrate many of the concepts the white papers discuss.
Thanks also go to Alison Dixon (Image Prep), who’s done all the beautiful layout and graphic work on the white papers, and to copy editors Ed Lamb and Joe Rominiecki, who’ve done their level best to save me from my typos and grammatical errors.
The association consulting community more broadly has also served as a tremendous source of inspiration, help, and advice over the years. Many association consultants have generously given of their time and expertise to answer my questions, point me in the direction of resources I need, or just generally help me to buck up when things aren’t going as I’d like them to with the business. We may be competitors, at least on occasion, but we are a community and we help each other out, and that’s priceless.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have to thank my spouse, Jim. When I came home from that fateful lunch with Shira nearly six years ago, I was nervous. As far as he knew, the plan was to land a CEO position, with the attendant salary, benefits, and security. I knew I was about to announce that I might want to throw all that over in favor of the risk, excitement, and uncertainty of launching my own business. This change in direction would have a dramatic effect on him and his life as well, and I didn’t know how he’d respond.
When I told him what had happened over lunch and what I was thinking, he responded: “I think that’s a great idea. I think you’d be a terrific solo consultant. You should definitely do that.”
“Well damn,” I thought. “If he’s that confident, what in the hell am I so worried about?”
Five years later, here we are. It’s been a thrilling, challenging, amazing, terrifying journey so far. I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.
I’ll be presenting two sessions at the upcoming ASAE Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in a few weeks:
Unsession: The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm, Sunday, August 14
Deep Dive: The Lean Startup Changes Everything, Tuesday, August 16
For the unsession, join me and Shelly Alcorn (Alcorn Associates) for a town hall-style discussion of how associations are being impacted by and can in turn impact trends in education and employment. Both of these sectors are undergoing profound disruption, and we believe associations are uniquely positioned to play a vital role in helping our current and future stakeholders adjust and even thrive in this rapidly changing environment.
In this unsession, we’ll share a preview of our soon-to-be released whitepaper, The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm (yep, the next Spark white paper is about to drop, y’all!). We’ll highlight some of the latest research on this topic, identify what we see as association advantages in these areas, and share the stories of associations that are doing good work preparing their audiences for the future.
We plan to challenge your thinking about the role associations can play in bridging the education to employment gap. We’ll have some questions for you, and we hope you’ll have some for us. Our goal is to have a productive dialogue that opens all of our eyes to some new possibilities for benefitting our members, our other stakeholders, and society at large.
We’ll be in one of the pop up session pods, probably around 3:30 Sunday afternoon.
There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing. Lean startup is a development approach that requires articulating and testing assumptions, favors rapid experimentation over elaborate planning, relies on customer feedback over intuition, and encourages iterative design, all in the service of ensuring you’re investing in the right thing.
It’s based on our October 2015 white paper Innovate the Lean Way: Applying Lean Startup Methodology in the Association Environment, and because we have a deep dive session, we’ll have time to work through a multi-part exercise, using the lean canvas, where attendees will get to work with lean concepts like the MVP, The One Metric That Matters, and the Pivot, so you can learn to apply this technique in your own organization to eliminate waste, validate your learning, and innovate faster and more successfully.
The deep dive session will be in Salt Palace room 255E from 9 – 10:30 am on Tuesday.
“There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing.”
Given associations’ tight resources, that type of waste is the last thing we can afford. Lean startup methodology, which moves beyond lean six-sigma process innovation to address the challenge of innovation, has taken the business world by storm in the last several years, with businesses of all sizes and life stages using it to experience greater success. Our contention is that associations can benefit from applying this methodology as well.
Innovate the Lean Way shares the basics of lean startup principles:
Business model canvas
The build-measure-learn cycle
Minimum Viable Product
And the stories of four associations that are using lean startup methodology effectively to improve their innovation efforts:
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Pivoting from Lean Process Improvement to Lean Startup
IEEE: The Power of the Pilot
NAFSA – Association of International Educators: Combining Design Thinking and Lean Startup
NCARB (Guillermo’s organization): Learning with Lean
Our goal is to help association leaders understand the benefits of applying this technique in your own organizations to eliminate waste, validate your learning, and innovate faster and more successfully.
I’ll be blogging more about the whitepaper in the coming days, but in the meantime, pick up your free copy at http://bit.ly/1NJJzkJ, no divulging of information about yourself required.
Don’t forget to check out the other FREE Spark whitepapers, too:
“There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing.”
Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, Director, Information Systems, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
Given associations’ tight resources, we can’t afford to waste time pursuing the wrong thing. Lean startup methodology (as opposed to lean six-sigma) has taken the business world by storm in the last several years, with businesses of all sizes and life stages experiencing success following its principles of building the minimum viable product, measuring what happens, and learning whether to proceed, stop, or pivot.
I’m excited to share that the newest Spark whitepaper is launching NEXT week. It’s co-authored with Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate and it applies lean startup methodology in the association sphere. Our position is that the keys to lean startup methodology – the Business Model Canvas, the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and the Pivot – are just as valuable and useful to associations as to the tech startups where the concepts originated. We think this same process can be used successfully by associations, and we have the case studies to back it up!
We’ll be launching the whitepaper with a FREE webinar Wednesday, October 21 at noon ET as part of the YourMemebrship.com Thought Leader Series. Join us to learn how you can apply this technique in your own organization to eliminate waste, validate your learning, and innovate faster and more successfully.
Oh – and check back here next week to download the actual whitepaper (also free).