Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Would Jeff Bezos Do If He Took Control of Your Associations?

Would Jeff Bezos keep your association's CEO as he did with the executive editor of the Washington Post
  • How would he change your membership and marketing departments? 
  • Would he discover “Amazon-style” ordering and customer service? Or, a clunky system that doesn’t remember you from one inquiry to the next?
  • Would he restructure your board and eliminate slow moving committees?

I thought of these (and other questions) as I read comments about Jeff Bezos and his first meeting with the staff of The Washington Post

He said the newspaper faced two business problems: the Rewrite Problem and the Debundling Problem.
  • In the former, the newspaper could spend weeks or months on a project that a Web site like the Huffington Post could rewrite “in 17 minutes.”
  • In the latter, whereas people once bought a paper and read it and passed sections of it around, the Web has debundled the paper so that people can read one story and move on to a different site.

Think about these two problems. 

They are similar to what associations face, right? Let’s rename them the Decision Problem and the Debundling Problem.
  • In the former, associations take months or years to make a decision that a nimble organization can do in 17 minutes. Whether it is because of our boards or our own insecurities, we run some really trifle decisions past committees, task forces, consultants and boards. And, in many cases, our boards have no clue about the nuances of the marketing, branding or event planning subjects we ask them to consider.
  • In the latter, whereas people used to join organizations to get knowledge about their industry or profession, the Web has provided that knowledge free, fast and shared. And, it has showed customers (members) the value of debundled services.
Bezos said his montra for the Post is:
  • Put the customer first: Note that Bezos did not say readers. Is it time for associations to think of customers and not members? 
  • Invent: Bezos called for ingenuity, inventiveness and experimentation of the team. 
  • Be patient: Don’t let the association’s priorities and strategies change with each new volunteer president. Don’t jump from project to project. Give your ideas time to succeed.
These are great strategies for associations too, right?

What do you think?

Seriously, if you were not worried about job security, what would you tell your association board? Or, your association CEO? (Feel free to share your thoughts on the comments section of this blog at

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