Contemplating the Future Impact of Cause and Effect in Associations

October 2, 2008 at 6:07 am Leave a comment

Parting with a proud legacy of literary tradition, I will begin this posting with the conclusion… so, in conclusion:

We cannot let the effect of our past become the cause of our future.

I would encourage you to apply this thought as much to your personal life as your association life; however, since this blog is entitled “Assocation 2020” and not “Life 2020”, I will focus on the association implications.

As our associations ramp up for the future building upon the tradition of the past, the effect of our past can yield both good news and bad news.  After all, if you are indeed ramping up for the future, it means a series of positive outcomes have likely transpired in the past which contributed to the current existence of your association.  At the same time, our associations often carry allot of baggage from all that may have gone wrong in the past, which creeps into the present to influence future consideration. 

Simply put, in our rapidly changing world nobody can reach the future by living a disproportionate existence in the past.  Further, the conditions which existed in the past have likely changed since that time setting the stage for your association to refocus itself on the future.  Ask the question, “are we truly building a future or only working to preserve the past?”.

Well-intentioned stakeholders, staff and leaders alike, can often become comfortable within their association lives leading to an intensification of status quo.  The good news is institutional history, knowledge and continuity can be a positive side effect; however, other side effects may include:  regressive behavior, vision fatigue, suppresion of new ideas, blockage of fresh leaders, technology avoidance, low risk tolerance and, of course for you, bouts with sleeplessness.  In rare cases, declining membership and loss of professional appetite has been reported.

Put another way, we cannot let the successes and failures of the past become the dominant focus of our association’s future.  We must evolve, experiment and engage new generations of members, leaders and staff.  In doing so, we can maintain our focus on the world of new possibilities which surround us these days as association executives.

Here’s a question to ask yourself:  “If my association did not exist and the original founders knocked on my door today asking if I would help them build this association from scratch, what would it look like?”

Are your allowing the effect of your past to be the cause of your future?  SM     





Entry filed under: Innovation, Managing Change, Organizational Management, participation.

Using social capital measurement as a predictor of future success or failure within your association The Fragile Economics of Vital Association Resources

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