Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Generation Flux ... Impact on Associations

When I finished college, I joined The Associated Press as a news reporter. It was an awesome learning experience. My time on the “night broadcast desk” taught me to write fast and concise in broadcast style.

It was my Saturday morning moments with News Editor Alf Hall that may have taught me the most about myself.

Alf (probably in his mid-50s at the time) had started his career at the Springfield Daily News along with Pulitzer Prize winner James (Scotty) Reston. Young journalists like me admired and almost idolized Reston and his work. He was an aspirational goal for many young journalists.

During a slow period one Saturday morning, Alf gazed out the windows of our office overlooking the Supreme Court Building and Ohio State Capitol in Columbus. Slowly and proudly he said, “You know Steve, I was here when they planted those trees.”

Knowing Alf had once worked with Scotty Reston and looking at what appeared to me to be huge – thus old – trees, I responded “That’s really something Alf.”

Silently, I told myself, “I don’t want to say that to someone 25 years from now!”

At the time, I thought Alf lacked motivation and I thought I was just “in a hurry” to move up the ladder. Ah, the assumptions of youth!

I’ve switched professions three times since that Saturday morning with Alf who has since retired as an AP News Editor. 

While reading FastCompany’s year-long series on “Generation Flux; however, I realized I’m really part of “Generation Flux” while Alf was part of a generation valuing stability. 

The series opens with a story featuring DJ Patil who first made a name for himself as a researcher on weather patterns at the University of Maryland: "There are some times," Patil explains, "when you can predict weather well for the next 15 days. Other times, you can only really forecast a couple of days. Sometimes you can't predict the next two hours."

The business climate, it turns out, is a lot like the weather.

FastCompany’s Robert Safian describes Gen Flux as those with a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates – even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business modes and assumptions. 
  • “The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating--fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies--and our visibility about the future is declining.”
  • “To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach. Because some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux. This is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one as Safian quoted above. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals (and associations) will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions – educational, corporate, political (and nonprofits)– are not built for flux.”
  • "A smarter organization needs multiple, different kinds of brains, of intelligence, rather than specialists."
Looking back to my Saturday morning conversations at The AP office, I realize that Alf was a success in terms of his world view and career aspirations.

As a member of Generation Flux; however, I’m still eagerly pursuing “the next big idea” and that is where the FastCompany series really helped me understand myself and the transformation in the association world.

My takeaway from FastCompany’s series on Generation Flux is that associations have leaders, members and staff professionals of both styles. To be successful, they need this blend. To adapt to rapid, ongoing changes; however, they will need to have staff and leaders who have a Generation Flux mind-set.

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