Editors Note: Many thanks to Jeff De Cagna from Principled Innovation, LLC for being our first guest blogger. We hope you enjoy his three part series that will run over the next two weeks.
In Part I of this series, I began deconstructing the relevance fallacy from the point of view of association thrivability. In this post, I will continue this process by examining relevance from the stakeholder perspective.
What will your current and future stakeholders need to thrive over the next decade and beyond?
In a world being buffeted by the forces of transformation, association stakeholders will continue to encounter both complex challenges and compelling opportunities. The profound impact of these forces, especially the application of powerful technologies in every industry, profession and field, is reinventing the very nature of work (and not always for the better), while also enabling more convenient ways to connect, cooperate and collaborate, i.e., to associate, with peers anywhere in the world, in any language and at any time.
On the surface, relevance thinking appears to be the exact approach associations should pursue to help their stakeholders thrive over the next decade and beyond. To further reveal the relevance fallacy, however, it is worth asking which players really benefit (or don’t) from this mindset and why.
The relevance mindset benefits boards - As I have argued before, association boards frequently adhere to a membership ideology, which is understandable given that most board members make some connection between association membership and their own professional success. Since it is tied to membership, then, the relevance mindset reinforces boards’ existing orthodox beliefs and nurtures a misplaced clarity for the overarching purpose of their work as senior decision-makers.
The relevance mindset benefits senior staff teams - For association CEOs and their direct reports, adopting and acting on the relevance mindset is an attractive alternative to the more challenging work of creating truly 21st century associations. This observation is not offered as a criticism, but as a clear-eyed recognition of reality. Building an association to thrive in a time of societal transformation is a highly complicated and unpredictable endeavor, while relevance thinking is an intuitive, if incremental, approach to making improvements.
The relevance mindset does not benefit stakeholders - Contrary to popular belief, current and future stakeholders do not benefit from associations’ focus on relevance. The combination of problems, needs and outcomes these stakeholders face demands a stronger response from associations, a genuine commitment to create distinctive and meaningful value that effectively harnesses the forces of transformation for innovation.
In the final part of this series, I will consider the relevance fallacy in the context of why current and future stakeholders should want to have relationships with associations over the next decade and beyond.