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Variable #1: Technology and Its Big Reach

Variable #1: Technology and Its Big Reach


Last week I declared more than half of associations will be dead or dying by 2030. This post is the first of a series explaining why I reached that conclusion – and what your association can do about it.

I’ve followed three major variables for a few years to come to my conclusion about the future for associations.

The first major variable is technology and its big reach.

Technology has been regularly disrupting our lives for a while – and there’s a ton more on the way. AI, robots, virtual reality, genetics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and more all have momentum and potential to create major disruptions in the world as we know it.

Oxford University says 47% of jobs will be gone in next 25 years.

The World Economic Forum predicted (2016) more than five million jobs would be gone by 2020.

Both studies and more talk about how the disappearing jobs include white-collar and administrative positions. Some researchers are exploring how the executive function of an organization could be done better by robots and AI.

Big deal you say. This is not a secret.

I agree – and yet many associations are not taking the deep action needed to explore potential impact on your membership.

This is not a time to be literal – or assume that people in your field are safe.

All people will be impacted somehow – even if their specific work is still done by humans.

You’ve got to look at the impact of impact of impact.

Get beyond the basics of the profession, industry and people you serve.

For example, while your members may still be necessary – what if their paperwork time is decreased dramatically?

Your members may be thrilled to think they will no longer have to spend hours doing documentation; however, a portion of their current position reflects that documentation time.

If technical advancements produce a savings of two hours/day thanks to faster documentation and others processes that complement members’ expertise, that could in effect, cut the need for professional staff by 25%.

The math starts to get interesting…

How many members will still be available to be members of your association – and will stay in the profession?

There is talk about the possibility of a 15-hour work week as the new norm – instead of a 40-hour work week.

If people only work 15 hours/week, what do they need from your association? What will they be able to afford?

What if leaders don’t see technology as that looming with potential?

Help them see how it’s already in their lives. Many of the things we are talking about are not that big of a jump.

Some people I’ve talked to argue that all robots and AI are years and maybe decades away from being part of our everyday life – and yet they can’t live without their smart phones and Alexa, Amazon’s personal virtual assistant, in their house.

It’s not IF the changes are coming – they are already in lift off and have been for a while – it’s WHEN.

The big impact is around the corner.

What your board looks to the future, what kinds of ideas are they talking about? How do they see robotics, AI and more impacting your association? Your members? Your community?

How do they see your association serving members moving forward?

If you aren’t exploring and playing with possibilities of how technology will impact your association, you are going to be blindsided – and it won’t be pretty.

Many of the technology big hitters are being fine-tuned currently. Take advantage of this time to start bending the future of what could be to see what might work for you.

You’ve got be willing to look way beyond what you would have thought possible ten years ago.

So where do you start? Which aspect of technology do you analyze?

The answer is “yes” and your choice.

Analyze at least three different technological disrupters coming our way and spin them out for the impact of impact of impact.

If this happens, then that will happen and cause the next to happen.

Select a concept your leaders will feel more familiar with – like driverless cars and trucks.

Note: Whether or not they like the concept does not matter. The potential impact does.

Stretch them more with your next two selections. Perhaps something is tied directly to your industry or part of members’ profession.

(If your association is more diverse or general, select what sounds interesting and pay special attention to impact on community.)

Make sure your leaders understand what you are talking about so they can analyze for impact.

If they don’t get the big picture, it’s impossible to explore impact times three.

Don’t just tell your leaders what will happen.

As tempting as it may be to do the strategic work yourself or with your executive team, have your leaders work with some issues themselves.

It’s good for your leaders to be comfortable thinking more strategically with potential big picture influences.

PLUS people support what they help create.

Once you’ve mind mapped out potential impact of impact of impact for members, their employers, the industry or profession and the community, start running math around your membership.

If everything happens, what will be the impact on your membership? On your budget? On your value proposition?

WARNING: This work will be very overwhelming for people not used to strategic analysis – which may be most of your leaders.

Stay in a loving space with their resistance and struggles to think so big. 

In a future post, we’ll talk about strategies for helping to keep your leaders grounded as they take on what might feel like scary concepts which can leave “how we’ve always done things” in the dust.

And there’s more…

Next week we’ll dig into the coming of age of so many potential members. Are younger people going to be your magic silver bullet to save the day?

Stay tuned until next week!

If you need help getting your leadership and members to start exploring what might be, a Future Bending Adventure may be perfect for your association.

Yours in Finding the Future That Rocks!

– Cynthia

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