In the Midst of Uncertainty, Expect These Trends to Rise

Dust off the crystal ball, slosh the tea leaves, and toss the I Ching. It’s that time of year when the pundits make predictions about what’s in store for the next 12 months. Based on our last two turns around the sun, these more intuitive schemes might be as reliable as a carefully considered hypothesis.

We’ve learned that the unimaginable easily upends the best laid plans. But that’s no reason to ignore the trend-trackers. Every leader benefits from paying close attention to the futurists and learning about possibilities that are just over the horizon.

This post describes developments that have been identified as important in strategy, technology, and marketing, areas where .orgSource focuses attention.

Strategy

The Importance of Purpose

Even the strongest cultures were stress tested by remote work. It’s not surprising that issues related to employee well-being are surfacing as a high priority in planning for the future.

Millennials and Gen Xers are eager to make a difference for society.

Forbes ranks purpose as one of the eight biggest business trends for 2022. During the pandemic, organizations found stability in a compelling and clearly articulated reason for being. Vision will continue to be a guiding star through the volatile digital marketplace.

Dean West, President of Association Laboratory, made this idea a focus of his presentation at .orgCommunity’s Solutions Day event. He urged participants to allow their missions to drive enthusiasm and to avoid letting challenges, along the way, divert attention from the goal.

Millennials and Gen Xers are eager to see tangible evidence that their work makes a difference for society. Keeping purpose at the forefront provides that motivation.

Authenticity rides in tandem with purpose. Leaders are called on to bring the mission to life both for their employees and members with transparency, compassion, and more than a dash of humility.

The Value of Diversity

The economic, social, and cultural events of the last year have put diversity at the top of many priority lists. In a recent survey conducted by .orgCommunity, Over 50 percent of respondents reported increasing the diversity of speakers and topics at their meetings. To build on the momentum, ongoing policies and procedures for maintaining a diverse workplace must be adopted.

.orgSource has long promoted diversity as a critical ingredient for innovation. Yes, you need representation across race, gender, and national origin; But it’s also important to cultivate fresh ideas. Welcome people whose thinking enriches your deliberations and seeds strategies for change.

When my business partner, Kevin Ordonez, and I interviewed leaders for our Association 4.0™ books, inclusivity was a common theme. Many associations are reluctant to add executives from outside the profession to their boards.

Adele Cehrs, CEO and Founder, When + How Agency, observed, “Board members are recruited because they are leaders in the moment. Expecting them to be innovators is a contradiction. It’s tough to think beyond current success. People who are still striving to get to the top will be the most future oriented. The board does not have the inspiration to move beyond their comfort zone. The executive director, who depends on the board’s endorsement to keep his or her job, creates yet another roadblock. The situation becomes an infinite loop. That’s one of the reasons why the structure needs to include outsiders.”

The Benefits of a Redesigned Workforce

If you are a CEO who was anxiously waiting to have the staff under one roof, let go. Clinging to outdated expectations will hobble your organization and your employees. Hire people you trust to get the job done, whether they are in the office next door or hundreds of miles away. Then, invest in technology to provide seamless communication and collaboration across teams.

Take advantage of the wealth of skilled freelancers to expand productivity. Contract workers are an opportunity to launch initiatives you might not be able to handle without additional talent.

If your association is not in a position to offer remote work, significant upgrades to recruitment and retention strategies may be needed.

Marketing

The Importance of Scanning

Approach the external environment with the same heightened awareness as internal cultural issues. Make scanning for strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities a regular practice on your marketing agenda. Understand your competitors as well as you know your members. What other groups do your constituents follow on social media? Why are they attracted to those channels? What are they seeking to find? Once you have studied the competition, prepare to deliver a better experience.

This level of deep understanding is not possible without timely, accurate data. I’ve written multiple posts on the importance of data in every aspect of association business. If technology deficits are preventing you from building accurate member personas, make 2022 the beginning of your journey to digital success.

The Rise of Multichannel Personalization

Customization needs to occur across all channels.

“Dear Colleague” isn’t an option. Members are looking for the intuitive, concierge service they are already experiencing with a host of other online providers. Customization along with uniform branding need to occur across all communications channels. The website, discussion forum, and eLearning platforms should not look like they were designed on different planets. This level of personalization requires an integrated approach to marketing where departments share strategy, data, and consistent messaging.

Amy Williams, Senior Consultant at .orgSource, explains the importance of an organization-wide marketing initiative like this. “Associations should consider their marketing teams as strategic partners. It’s one of the few departments with a full line of sight across the organization. If the marketing team doesn’t have influence and involvement in developing the strategic plan, there’s a major disconnect which results in missed opportunities. It is the job of marketers to listen to the customer and influence the organization’s strategy.”

Resolve to seat the Marketing Department at the head of the table, if it is not already there.

The Reach of Branded Apps

People want to carry their lives in their pockets. Apps make that degree of convenience possible. They also are an effective strategy for expanding your brand presence and keeping it in your audience’s sightlines. You probably already have an app for meetings and events; if you are looking to give members seamless access to specific tools and content, consider this solution.

Technology

 For technology predictions I often look to Gartner, the IT and research giant. They provide a list of 12 top technology trends for 2022. Gartner’s projections are geared toward the big business world which moves on a faster track than associations. But these trends trickle down, and it’s valuable to see where we are heading. Here are three of their picks for future growth.

The Strength of Cyber Security Mesh

As the data in our systems multiplies, the privacy and safety of that information becomes an increasing concern. Cyber security mesh is a compartmentalized way to manage access to data. Gartner describes it like this.

The cybersecurity mesh is a distributed architectural approach to scalable, flexible, and reliable cyber control. The mesh changes the focus from protecting a traditional IT perimeter (analogous to a “walled city”) to a more modular approach that centralizes policy orchestration but distributes enforcement of cyber security policy. 

In other words, security protocols are distributed among multiple points of access. Different constituent groups have varying permissions. Dividing the data into realms makes it more difficult for a hacker to compromise an entire system.

The Capabilities of Decision Intelligence

Decision intelligence takes forecasting and problem-solving to a fascinating new level. It gives leaders the ability to use AI to find significant connections and insights within their existing data. This AI function appears to be like having a super detail-oriented, yet highly creative employee who can identify patterns and suggest options based on wide-ranging and objective observations.

The Growth Potential of Generative AI

Generative AI is a similarly impressive tool. This technology goes beyond problem-solving. The AI learns from what you have done in the past and uses those experiences and data to suggest completely new content or products. For example, the AI might scan all my blog posts and repurpose copy to create an entirely new article.

These innovations are both amazing and slightly unsettling. They have the potential to create significant disruption which, depending on where you stand, might be extremely positive or negative.

That duality characterizes the digital environment we will manage in 2022. Although it won’t be a smooth ride, there is excitement and innovation ahead. Don’t leave your fate to tea leaves, tarot cards, or other types of guessing games. Be on the positive side of disruption by becoming a student of the marketplace and understanding emerging trends.