By Carla KalogeridisI recently read some comments by authors and leadership consultants Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman about confronting the brutal facts about our competitiveness. Their remarks have solid points of relevance for association publishers.
Sometimes we get so caught up with what members may or may not want that we forget to take a look around at what the competition is up to. Why is that important? Because if someone else takes over your space with better content and publications, it doesn’t matter how often you’ve surveyed your members. It’s about execution — nothing new there.
Your competitors might be other associations, B2B publications, providers serving your industry, or even your own members. Everyone is in the content game, and not always for the same reasons. But even that doesn’t matter because what you’re competing for is your members’/readers’ time and attention, right?
So, how can we gauge our relevance? Cragun and Sweetman say some organizations are "melting icebergs” because each year they become a little less relevant. Ouch. And yet, for many of you, I bet this hits close to home.
The authors suggest asking a few "brutal” questions to assess your situation (these can be applied to your organization or yourself):
1 Melt-rate. Is my association a melting iceberg? If so, at what rate? Why?
2 Relevance trend. Is my organization continuing to increase in relevance in the eyes of members, customers, and stakeholders? If not, why?
3 Adding value. Are we continually adding value to our products from our members’ and customers’ point of view? Am I engaged in vital work that adds value to the member? (That last one is important specifically to association publishing and communications teams.)
4 Internal vs. external change. Is my organization’s internal rate of change faster than the rate of change in the external environment in my industry? Am I learning faster as a publishing professional than the creation of new knowledge in the publishing and media field?
Although these questions are somewhat metaphorical, the authors say they can spur deep insight into our ability to successfully compete now and in the future; avoiding asking these strategic questions, they add, is a sure path to irrelevance. "Head in the sand” strategies rarely work for those who want to compete successfully and remain relevant.
The act of asking self-reflective questions is the first step to self- awareness and an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, the authors point out. Asking confront-the-brutal-fact questions aobut your competitiveness could help you and your organization feel more in control of your future.
Continuous learning — and what the authors call learning agility — is a key competency. American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer summed it up in this way: "In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who will inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Self-awareness may not always give that positive buzz you feel when you’ve learned something new, but it could be the most important curriculum you take on in 2017.
Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman are founders of SweetmanCragun, a provider of leadership and hi-performance solutions specifically tailored for today’s Age of Disruption. They are co-authors of the new book, Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption.
Carla Kalogeridis is publisher and editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.