Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wisdom of the Group ... which group?

There's a concept of wisdom of the group ... but which group would that be? Two recent decisions by groups actually aren't entirely uncommon, but can to a degree indicate how associations can work. A member survey indicates huge preference for one approach; the committee authorized to make the decision goes the opposite direction. A decline in attendance at a function, combined with many decision-makers saying "I can't go but it's really important to continue to have it because others need to go" makes a program continue anyway.

Of course an essential part of deliberations is opportunity for more insight during discussion than a survey or attendance numbers can show -- but at what point should huge survey response or declining attendance continue to be considered interesting, but not influencing?

1. Being able to validate lack of attendance is a sign it's time for something to go, versus something that needs to be fixed, is an ongoing challenge. There are times criticism placed on marketing (wrong type, not enough) - when it was marketed, but it didn't make the sale. Our association members still act like consumers - they aren't going to buy what they don't want. Or they will, and then stop using it. Consumers are consumers.

2. When can we formally declare that acceptance is too low to move forward or to continue? Question exists for long-standing programs and new programs. Limited staff and other association resources should always drive need for actual proof that members actually do WANT something -- but it's easy to operate from a standpoint of SHOULD want versus DO want. Much of what associations do are not pure widget sales or income versus expense debates, but rather best use of resources, optimizing satisfaction, moving industry forward, building relationships debates. Way harder to benchmark or quantify.
3. Too many things last forever (or don't decrease in frequency) because the ones who continue programs keep voting yes, even though they personally know they aren't going to do it. I sometimes wish we could take two votes - the what's your answer as a fiduciary vote - and the what's your answer as the potential end-user or adopter? And if those two answers don't match, then why was the first vote the right answer and not the second?

4. Do we get nostalgic or wistful for the way things used to be, and try to recreate that magic, when actually the magic is dead? One reason new members can inject such a dose of reality into decision-making is because they don't have the dream of what used to be burdening them. And used to be doesn't need to mean decades ago, it can mean two or three years ago. Times change, and we can't change time.
Am I wrong?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cindy. A very thoughtful post....