Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To association executives saying “If it ain’t broke” ...

... I say “break it!”

When working as an association executive at a major national association, I had a board member who loved to respond to new ideas with:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, I have one response (which I borrowed) for this board member (who became our president) and others like him:

“If it ain’t broke, BREAK IT and then fix it.”

Let’s go back to the late 1990s.
Kodak dominated the film market. Their Kodachrome film was so popular it even had its own popular song by Paul Simon. Fuji was a minor player in the film market. Everybody took photos with a camera and then had them developed (unless you could afford a Polaroid).

I can envision this hypothetical discussion the “Ain’t Broke thinkers" in a Kodak meeting in the early 2000s:
  • Kodak researcher: “I’m reading a lot about digital technology. What are we doing about it?”
  • Ain’t #1: “Come on. We dominate the market. Why worry about some new fangled technology? No one will pay attention to that.”
  • Kodak researcher: “Well, I’m also discovering that some technology companies are working on digital camera phones.”
  • Ain’t #2: “Now, who in the world would take photos with a cheap camera phone? Real photographers want real cameras with film. That has to be the stupidest idea I’ve heard.”
  • Kodak researcher: “Shouldn’t we at least be asking our engineers to explore the possibilities of these new technologies?”
  • Kodak Manager: we dominate the market. As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Whether about social media or the freemium membership model, I’ve seen and heard similar “it ain’t broke” discussions among association executives and leaders.

As rapidly as “the world around us” is changing, association executives and association leaders cannot afford the rest on “the way we’ve always done it.”

If your association is filled with “ain’t type leaders,” you may want to use the “then break it so we can fix it” strategy or, like the Kodak folks, look for a different association and job.

Thinking your world will never change belies history and current events.

Feel free to leave comments at www.scdgroup.net.

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