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Jeff De Cagna on how to build your association for the future

Last week we posted our podcast interview with Jeff De Cagna, Chief Strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC. After serving as an association executive for over 10 years, he now advises associations across North America and around the world.

We picked his brain on what associations should be doing today to position themselves for long-term growth and success. He gave a lot of advice, so we thought we'd post the transcript of our interview too if you want to save the text and reference parts that interest you most or that you want to share with your colleagues as part of your internal advocacy.

Janelle: Hi, everyone. Janelle Kozyra here for an Inmagic podcast. I am joined today by Jeff De Cagna who is an author, speaker, and advisor to associations throughout North America and the world. He is the Chief Strategist and founder of Principled Innovation, a company that he started after working as an association executive for over 10 years. Jeff, it's nice to have you with us today.

Jeff: Thanks very much, Janelle. It's a pleasure to be with you as well.

Janelle: So tell us a little bit about your background. How did you decide to make the move from working as an association executive to helping associations as a strategic advisor?

Jeff: Well, as you said, I started my career working in associations and I worked for various associations in the Washington, D.C., area on staff up until almost the end of 2001. And, quite honestly, I lost my last association job. I was restructured by that organization and ended up without a job and decided at that point that it's something that I had wanted to do for a number of years, which was pursue working on my own and helping more than one association at a time, and that was probably a good time to do it, even though it wasn't a great time because it was just a few weeks after September 11th and the economy was not in such great shape.

But I figured that losing a job was a good rationale for saying I'm going to give this a try to see how it works. And now I'm in my 10th year and I'm incredibly glad that I did it because I've had wonderful opportunities to work with a wide variety of associations across the country and in Canada and other parts of the world as well.

Janelle: And in that time you also were one of the co-authors of "We Have Always Done It That Way -- 101 Things About Associations We Must Change." What do you think the most important this-is-how-it's-always-been-done activity that an association should change?

Jeff: Well, I really enjoyed writing that with my colleagues back in 2005/2006, and I really think more so than an activity, it's a mind-set. I think that in many ways what our book did was kind of turn the phrase "we've always done it that way" from a legitimate excuse to a world view among many association leaders that say, hey, we can't just keep mouthing these words.

And I think that today when people look around at what's happening in the world of business, the world of organizations and our society as a whole, it's pretty clear that what's going on is not simple linear change, but actually we are a society in the process of transformation and as a consequence we've always done it that way really can't be treated as a serious leadership view any longer.

So more so than any one activity, because I think there are a number of different activities that associations could stop doing and do things differently. We could spend the entire podcast talking about those. But I think more than any one activity that associations perform, it's really about do we have the right mindset for the 21st century? This is a time of not of simple linear change, but a time of transformation, and I think that's really the approach that leaders have to take.

Janelle: So tell me more about that mindset, then. What do you think is the appropriate mindset that association executives need to have today?

Jeff: Well, I think association leaders need to take a very good look around at what's happening, as I said, and recognize that there are forces at work, there are economic, technological, scientific, demographic, political, social forces at work, and not just in the United States and not just in North America, but around the world that are reshaping our society right before our eyes.

And certainly one of the areas that I concentrate a lot of my work on is in technology, and we have certainly seen within the last 20 years a profound acceleration in the rate of transformation driven a lot by technology, driven considerably by technology.

And certainly within the last 10 years and even in the last five years we've seen technology become the platform for a more social, a more open world, a world in which there is far more sharing, far more collaboration, far more association, far more associating. Human experience of associating is far more common, far more interaction that is done without cost or with minimal cost.

So on that one basis alone you have to really ask yourself, how does an association succeed in this environment? And that's just one aspect of it, I think. You know, generational change, demographic change at large, not just the shift from the dominance of a boomer generation in the workplace to now more Gen X and more Gen Y, more Millennials in the workplace, but also the fact that our society is becoming more racially and ethically diverse.

It changes the dynamics of how people associate and how they want to interact with one another and the kinds of relationships that people want to have. There is far more opportunity for more diversity in those relationships.

So the basis of just these kinds of few examples, association leaders really need to look at the world around us and say, hey, our mindset needs to be future-focused. We need to be thinking not about where we have been, not about the organization that we founded 50 or 75 or 100 years ago, but the organization we want to leave behind to our successors who are going to have a completely different mindset about the world in which we live.

We can't continue to hope that the stuff we've always done is going to find some renewed traction just because we want it to. We have to recognize the dynamics of where we are headed and respect those dynamics and respect that they are beyond our control and adapt accordingly.

And, again, as I said, this is not -- if this were simple linear change, if we were just sort of seeing incremental steps year-over-year, that would be one thing. But we are seeing big leaps and big discontinuities in the environment that are changing fundamentally the way people expect and how value creation occurs.

So the mindset has to be very future-focused, very open to discovery, very open to experimentation, very much committed to innovation, and very comfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity and volatility and complexity that is inherent in a world that is experiencing a major transformation as we talked about.

Janelle: So what's an example of how associations can transform themselves to be more successful in the coming decade?

Jeff: Well, I think one of the big areas that I'm helping associations with right now is taking a good hard look at their business models. And that may seem like a kind of counter intuitive place to start, but really I think it's a terrific place to start for organizations for a couple of reasons.

First, certainly every association has a business model, but yet most of those business models were never intentionally designed. They were simply what the expectation was for an association business model. So the business models have been in place, we've been operating on them for decades, and we've now kind of reached the point where those business models are kind of running out of steam.

So now it's time for us to say, OK, how do we build a new business model that recognizes the realities of the marketplace, but that also allows us to act in a way that is purposeful? And I think that summary is fundamentally the issue that we need to grapple with for associations at a very, very basic level, which is how do we, on the one hand, continue to act in ways that are purposeful and where we are intentionally purposeful, we act with clarity of thought and with clarity of intention to be purposeful in trying to achieve some outcome that serves the interests of our stakeholders, that serves the interests of the professions or industries or fields that we are working for?

At the same time we also have to be very intentional in our effort to be profitable. I think a lot of associations struggle with this. We struggle with how to integrate our commitment to purpose with our commitment to profitability. I believe both are necessary.

I don't believe it's an either/or choice. I don't believe it's ever been an either/or choice, but I believe it is clearly now not an either/or choice, but an interdependent situation where both purpose and profit must operate at the same time. They must coexist and you really cannot have one without the other.

If we have organizations that are not purposeful in their approach to creating value, then I think it will be very hard for them to be profitable going forward. Conversely, it'll be difficult to have organizations sustain their profitability over time if there is not an organizational commitment to advancing purpose throughout the work of the organization.

So I think the business model is very much an integrated framework for the strategic intent and for the future focus as well as the underlying sort of operational needs of an organization in an uncertain environment, and the ability to execute and have the right capabilities in place for value delivery and value capture for the organization.

So I think that's one really big kind of fundamental area that all associations need to be looking at right now is, what's our business model -- not for today -- but what's our business model going forward? How are we going to devise a business model that allows us to sustain ourselves and recognize the fact that, unlike what we've done up until now where we've had the same business model for decades, it may be that we will have a continuous flow of new business models or at least adaptations to our business models over the course of the next decade or more.

Because the environment that we are in there's so much uncertainty and complexity, there's so much discontinuity that we have to be flexible and adaptable enough to recognize that before it happens and adjust our business models accordingly.

So I think we're entering, we're very much in a new time of leadership and in one that I think unfortunately we've done not enough to prepare our leaders for. We have operated our organizations on the basis of 20th-century models of leadership. I believe we're still perpetuating 20th century models of leadership and we're not doing enough or we have not up until now done enough to educate both staff and voluntary leaders on what it means to lead an organization in the 21st century given the dramatic transformation that is underway.

Janelle: What would you say is the risk of continuing to perpetuate this 20th century model of thinking?

Jeff: Well, you know, I think it's tempting to say that it's an all-or-nothing bet. I think it's tempting to say, as some people will say, innovate or die, and I don't like to be an alarmist in that way. I have a certain intellectual problem with that phrase because I think it's possible for an organization to innovate and for reasons beyond its control or for circumstances that emerge it's still possible the organization could suffer, that innovation in and of itself is not an antidote to an organization eventually going away over time. An organization can innovate in the short term and become complacent in the long term.

So I think that the risk remains the same as the risk that has already been in many ways, which is associations like all organizations do not get a lifetime free pass to exist for as long as they want without adapting to the environment.

Every organization, whether it's a large Fortune 500 company or a medium-sized business or a small business or a non-profit or an academic institution or a religious institution, still has to appreciate the fact that the forces operating within its environment are stronger than the choices that those leaders make and that those forces are very much beyond the control of the people who lead those institutions.

So what we need to be doing in our organizations is taking a step back and saying what's going on, where are we headed, appreciate the fact that the pace of transformation is accelerating, that it is quite rapid and has been for some time and it continues to accelerate and therefore the intensity continues to ramp up.

And I think the risk of not doing that is essentially putting the organization in the position of saying we're going to hope for the best. I mean, I think there is a question that I started to ask people and this based on the conversation that I had with an author by the name of Umair Haque who is consultant and blogger based in the U.K. who has written a book called "The New Capitalist Manifesto," and I interviewed him for my own podcast a couple of months ago.

I asked him the question, what is it that you say to boards that you talk to that are a bit more intransigent when it comes to making serious organizational change and really shifting the organization for the future? And this question is very simple. Do you want to be a disruptor or do you want to be disrupted?

And I've begun to pose that question to people that I talk to in the association community in my public sessions and in my work with individual groups to say that that's really the choice we face. We can either be disruptors, we can either disrupt our own status quo, we can either focus on building a stronger future, building our organizations to thrive, or we can allow ourselves to be disrupted because we've decided to play it safe. We've decided to wait and see. We've decided to use hope as a strategy.

I think that there will be consequences for both. And there's risk on both sides of that equation, but if it were up to me I would want to put every association on the disruptor side of risk because I think the potential upside is far greater than the enormous downside of being disrupted in this kind of an environment.

Janelle: So some of the things you've sort of touched on this in some of your responses so far, but I want to put a finer point on it. What would you say is the biggest hurdle facing associations today? Is it regarding process, perception, technology, something else?

Jeff: You know, it's hard to put your finger or hard for me to put my finger on any one thing that's the single greatest hurdle. I mean, I think in some ways the first thing that pops into my head as what the hurdle is and maybe what the hurdle will be going forward is something that might be counter-intuitive, which is trust or the lack thereof.

Because I think that one of the things that I hear a lot about in conversations that I have with association leaders of all types of all kinds of organizations is that there's not necessarily as much trust in the environment as people would hope for or would expect. So staff doesn't trust the members, members don't trust the staff, staff may not trust each other, members may not trust each other.

There's not as much trust, and I think that in many ways our organizations, perhaps even more so than others and although I wouldn't say that that's always the case, but I would say that our organizations, because of what we do, because of what we offer, associations I think I said before we are in the business of associating, that is the core business if you will of what an association does, and in this environment and in the environment of intense and accelerating change at a time of great uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and transformation going on, the one really valuable resource that we can have to help us see our way through is trust.

Being able to trust one another's judgment, being able to trust one another's capabilities, being able to trust one another's intentions that people are, in fact, working together toward a common purpose, that there is a meaningful collaboration going on to achieve outcomes that can be shared in by all, where there's a shared belief in those outcomes.

And trust is an enormously powerful tool for reducing uncertainty because when people trust each other, then they can begin to come to some agreement about what's happening in the environment, what that means to the organization so that makes people feel less uncertain.

It's an enormously powerful way to reduce costs because when people trust one another then there is much less need for checking and re-checking and re-re-checking. Micro-managing becomes less of an issue in an environment of trust.

So I believe that all the things you mentioned, process and technology and people and everything is going to factor into this, but I think more so than the stuff that is in the black space, if I can put it that way, the stuff that we can see, more so than the things in the black space, it's probably the things in the white space that matter more.

And I think chief among them is we have to build environments of trust that enable our organizations to function more capably in this environment because I think one of the things that distinguishes the traditional association from the emergent networks and communities that form online so easily is that people build trusting relationships with one another far more quickly and far more easily because they're able to gauge people's intentions and see people's passion and collaborate with people much more easily.

So trust becomes a necessary ingredient -- when you can't compel people to do something, when you don't have an extrinsic motivational tool like a paycheck or any kind of money or something that's fear-based, if you can't threaten people, if you can't keep them from doing something, when you don't have those tools that are so commonplace in our organizations, then it becomes absolutely necessary for you to have a greater level of trust to enable the kinds of outcomes that you want.

And I'm not saying that those extrinsic motivational tools are the things we want to use. What I'm saying is that that's what we have traditionally used in organizations to compel people to do things. We now live in an environment where it is extremely difficult if not impossible to compel people to do things in ways that traditional management has sort of suggested was okay to do.

It is no longer okay to do that. It has never been okay to do that, but certainly now in today's environment where people have so much more of their own power and it's so much more clear to them that they hold this power, that the powers that used to be held by institutions now lives in groups and networks and individuals that we can't compel people to do things so we can only build trusted relationships with them and inspire them and engage their passion and include them in ways that are open and accessible to all and transparent, that's where the power of the future organization and the power of the future network lives.

And I think associations can get there, but we have to let go of the legacy of what organizations have been about for the last couple of centuries, really, and adopt the fact that in the 21st century the association is not about the legal structure that we put under the IRS code, that the association is about the relationship that exists between and among the stakeholders. It's about the experience, not about the structure, not about the sort of underlying bureaucracy, but it's about the people and how they connect with one another toward achieving some common purpose.

Janelle: In an article you wrote recently for Associations Now, it was called "Six Design Principles for Business Model Innovation." You talk about how collaboration is the new content. What do you mean by that?

Jeff: Well, I think as you mentioned, the title of the article is "Six Design Principles for Business Model Innovation," so it's one of six design principles that I've offered to help associations think about how they might build, design and build business models for the future.

And so that particular principle, collaboration is the new content, is a principle that says content is important and it's critical that people have the information that they need to engage in the work that is going to engage in whatever work they do so they can be successful and learn what they need to know and that sort of thing.

But the collaboration piece, as much as associations need to offer high-quality content, they also need to offer opportunities for high-quality collaboration because the nature of the problems people face today are so much more complicated out of necessity, out of reality of a world undergoing transformation, in a world in which people will face more complicated problems and more complex problems.

So those problems will not just be solved by getting content from some third-party source. And also recognize the fact that there's lots and lots of content out there, so associations may find it difficult to be distinctive with regard to content, but where they can be distinctive potentially is by saying we're going to be the ones who are going to offer high-quality collaboration.

We're going to pull the right people together to collaborate to solve problems that only we care about because all of our competitors are much more interested in a commodity kind of relationship with those stakeholders. They just want to extract information, repackage it, repurpose it, remix it, and resell it.

What we want to do is we actually have an investment as an organization at the level of purpose to solve these problems to help our industries and professions be more successful. So for me, it's not just about high-quality content, it's about high-quality collaboration. How do we get people working together in digital space, in physical space, a combination of the two to really tackle the most serious problems facing our organizations and challenge them to work together in that way, in ways that they've never done before?

You know, get outside of the framework of the committee or the task force and get onto the serious work of how do we collaborate to solve real problems and not just incrementally but in big ways with big options and work that experimentally to implement those options over time.

Janelle: And one of the major technology platforms that's facilitating this collaboration in a variety of sectors and not just associations is social technologies. Do you think social technologies and information abundance are helping or hurting associations? Because on one hand social technologies and increased information can foster connections and dialogue but on the other hand it can be more different for associations to maybe differentiate themselves as a preferred information resource. So do you think that there's a tipping point?

Jeff: I guess I would frame my response a little differently because I think the use of any technology, any new technology is going to change the dynamics of a game that's been previously played. So I think you've stated accurately that the benefit of social technology is about enabling different kinds of collaboration, different kinds of relationship building, an opportunity for us, for associations to understand their stakeholders more clearly, get inside, develop a level of intimacy with them, listening to what they have to say, understanding their concerns, giving them opportunities for engagement and so on.

I think that it's also correct to say that social technology makes it harder for us to operate our old business model, which has been about sharing information and, as I said a moment ago, that is not a distinctive business model anymore.

There's tremendous amounts, enormous amounts of information flowing through networks and flowing through both human networks and computer networks, online networks, that really makes it hard for associations to be the ones to say, hey, we've got the right answer.

And no association can possibly have all the information that stakeholders will need to solve these complex problems. It's just not a possibility. That knowledge is too far distributed today for that to be the case and that was even true before social technologies became so prominent and then I think that problem has been exacerbated.

So for me, I guess the way that I would say it is the question I would want to ask and I do ask, actually, of association leaders is what is the sort of business end game or what is the strategic outcome might be a better way to put it of the use of social technologies?

Because I think what I have seen in a lot of organizations, and maybe this is beginning to change a little bit, but I think what I've seen in the last few years as social technology has become more prominent in associations is, we have attempted to use social technologies to advance the existing paradigm, so we're using things like Twitter and Facebook and all these public social networks as another marketing channel for advancing essentially the same set of activities that we've always done.

Let's use Twitter to offer discounts on an upcoming conference or a book. Let's use Facebook to encourage people to join membership. Let's use LinkedIn to have a discussion around something. These are the same kinds of things we've always done.

And when I look at that and then compare it to the world-changing work that the voluntary collaborators who helped created Wikipedia some 10 years ago have done, I ask myself how is it possible that this set of voluntary collaborators who had a common purpose with regard to Wikipedia -- which was we wanted to create an encyclopedia that could be available to anyone anywhere in the world online that was at least as good if not better than anything that was available in print, but that could always be updated and anyone could contribute to it. It didn't start out that way, but it became that.

And in the last 10 years, Wikipedia, whatever you feel about it, whatever your listeners feel about it, whatever issues people might have with Wikipedia, you cannot deny the effect that Wikipedia is a game-changing development that is predicated upon, not just social technologies, but a form of social engagement enabled by technology that has completely changed our way of thinking about not just encyclopedias, but about knowledge, about collaboration, about community and so on.

So when I compare these two things, I compare what we've done in associations to what happened with Wikipedia, I have to ask myself what is our big strategic goal? What is our intentional purposeful effort with regard to social technology?

How are we going to use these tools, not simply to sell more stuff, not simply to offer more people some things to do within the existing paradigm, but to actually put them together in creative and interesting ways that would allow us to change that paradigm, again, in a world of transformation.

So where I see real excitement in that regard is with respect to mobile. I mean, I feel like mobile is such a powerful platform and the ubiquitous platform now that it offers associations another opportunity to really redefine and reinvent themselves for a world in which everyone is walking around with a small kind of computing device, but it's so much more than that.

It's not really accurate to describe a mobile phone, a smart phone as a kind of computing device. It is really an extension of ourselves and it is very much built into our identity, all the data that I look at which is a considerable amount points to the fact that people view their mobile devices really as an extension of their own identity, from what case they put them in, to the apps that they choose (if it's a smart phone), to the way they use it on a day-in-day-out basis, whether they're a gamer or more of an artist. And certainly I would throw tablets into that as well.

And so I think there is the technology that is in the marketplace that is so influential and so transformative in its own right, we will continue to see it disrupt our old business models. It will continue to disrupt the things that we have traditionally done.

So we can, I think, here becomes another choice. We can either be disruptors or we can be disrupted. We can use these technologies, social, mobile, real-time technologies and so on, tablets and that kind of thing, we can use them to disrupt our existing ways of doing business in favor of a new approach to value creation, or we can allow those technologies employed by other people and employed by not just actually constituted organizations, but by informal networks and by emergent groups, we can allow those groups to take these technologies and put them together in creative interesting innovative ways and watch our business model be further disrupted.

So it really does come back to what I said before which is we live in a time of transformation so we have to really start thinking about whether we want to be, what side of the transformation do we want to be on? We're already somewhat far behind because there is a traditional conservatism in associations that causes us to lag behind a lot of the time.

We have to accelerate the pace of progress inside our organizations and try to move beyond the limitations of the existing belief system of our community to really advance ourselves into the 21st century. So it's kind of long-winded response to what I think is a pretty fundamental question which is how are we going to allow technology to advance our cause going forward or are we going to allow technology to restrain our cause because we're stuck in our old paradigm rather than try to build the next one.

Janelle: Yeah, and really what it also comes down to is what provides value and where can we find the greatest value and that's something that I think you've also talked about which is the value gap. Can you talk about the value that associations provide to members for a fee versus what members can get on their own for free?

Jeff: Let me talk about it a little differently because I certainly think that whether or not something is free is a part of this conversation, but when I talk about the value gap, what I'm really saying to people or what I'm really trying to say to associations is that what associations have to offer, there is a gap between that and what is available more broadly in the world, and some of that's available for free and some of that's available at a cost.

But the bottom line is I always like to go back to, say, 1995 which is probably the first time I ever had an interaction with and for a lot of people it was probably in that same timeframe. So it's been 16 years that I've been shopping for things on and, of course, I started out with books like everybody else and I still buy books alone.

Now I'm buying my books on my iPad as opposed to buying them in print. But I buy other things from them as well. And the first experience I ever had with or actually one of the early experiences I had with them was something that I bought that I didn't want and I returned. It was so simple to return it to them that it was crazy simple to have that experience.

Everyone's expectations have been calibrated by their experiences with and more recently with companies like Zappos and other companies that are doing a better job of serving their stakeholders, their customers more effectively.

So in these last 15, 16, 20 years or so, we have seen a huge increase in customer expectations, in the availability of what customers want, the simplicity with which things can be accessed, the enormous -- you know, we talked about social technology -- so the enormous really explosion of high-quality content in a variety of forms.

So everything is out there and so what associations have done, associations have done some things. They've created lots of content and things like that, but they have done it in ways where we've debated about what's behind the member firewall, it's been very much a closed system, only members get to play, it's a pay-to-play kind of thing, you've got to pay your dues before you can join and once you've joined you've got to pay more dues although they're not financial dues, they're more human dues, you've got to pay more dues before you get to be included in the really interesting stuff.

And just about every association, their membership constitutes a small subset of a broader marketplace. There may be 100,000 people who work in a certain niche profession but the association in that niche profession may only have half the people, maybe it's less, maybe it's a little bit more.

When an association has a small subset of the larger marketplace, you really have to ask yourself who is controlling the content creation, the value creation within that organization? This is the reason why that I describe association business models today as both membership-centric and member-centric.

And what I mean by that is on the one hand they're membership-centric because the primary value proposition for those business models is membership, either you join or you don't. And pretty much everything else is predicated on that decision because if you don't join then you're not going to get access to everything, you're not going to be invited to do things, you're not going to be able to be a voluntary leader. There's lots of things you don't get to do if you don't join, right? So non-members basically don't enjoy all the benefits that go along with it, so membership is a primary value proposition.

But then you have a secondary thing there which is it's member-centric in the sense that everything else that goes on in the organization, all the rest of the value creation process is controlled by people who are members. So that subset of people gets to decide what everyone else receives.

And the problem that I see with that is that that's what creates the value gap. The value gap exists between what that fairly small segment of association members determines is important versus what everyone else who works in that industry or profession can get in the marketplace. Right? The marketplace has a lot more ability, a lot more willingness to create things that will serve the interests of those people which is the reason why associations face such serious for-profit competition.

Associations take a very long time, on average, to build things for their members, much longer than most for-profits. So what they are doing when, for example, I just did a session at ASAE last week and I talked about business models for events for meetings and workshops.

And one of the points that I made that's a problem for the business models for those events is that nine months of cycle time for developing an annual meeting is way too long because among the other problems that it creates, it give for-profit competitors a free ride more or less in watching the creation of that meeting over the period of nine months, so that they can take a lot of the things that get developed in that period and put it together in a very easily duplicated way for half the price and in half the time or even less. It might take them six weeks to pull together something that an association would take nine months to do

And so this value gap is partly generated by the fact that our business models are very much designed to be membership-centric and member-centric at the same time. This value gap exists because the marketplace is operating in a much different way than the way the association bureaucracy operates.

And then another part of it is we operate on association time, and if I am a busy and successful professional, someone who wants to be successful, and I need a response to my question now, I need to know the answer today, then I can't wait three months for the next issue of the magazine, I can't wait six months for the next meeting, I can't wait until the association decides it's time for me to get what I need. I need to know today. I need to get the answer now and that's part of the value gap, too, is that if I can get that somewhere else, then I don't really know why I need the association.

So we have to re-orient our thinking about value creation to these realities of today's marketplace, and I think I see some of it happening, but I don't think it's going nearly far enough and nearly fast enough.

Janelle: Jeff, a final question for you because it sounds like you've got a lot on your plate coming up. What do you have on tap?

Jeff: Well, I have a new website that I'm working on that will be launching hopefully keep our fingers crossed in about a month, some time in early June that I'm excited about which I think is going to provide people a lot clearer picture of the stuff that I'm passionate about and the stuff that I'm working on like it's a lot of the things that we've talked about in this interview.

And also I'm doing some writing on some of the things that we've been talking about here and that writing, I hope, will be things that I'll be able to share in a variety of venues in the months ahead as we move deeper into 2011 and into 2012.

So I'm excited about the things that I'm doing, excited about the opportunities that I'll be having this year to go out and speak to a lot of association executives across the country and in other parts of the world I'll be addressing association leaders in the U.K. in the next couple of weeks when I head to London next week or in mid May.

And also later in the summer I'll be in Australia for a period of time talking to association leaders there, so I'm excited to have lots of opportunities to interact with association leaders across the US and in other parts of the world to talk about some of these same themes and put some of these same ideas in front of them in an effort to challenge them to think differently.

Because I guess the thing I want to say as we're kind of winding this down is I get the fact that it's really hard to be a leader in an organization today. I see it all the time. I can't say that I experience it because my role is different, although I have experienced it because I have been a member of the ASAE board and I serve on a non-profit board now so I've been in voluntary roles throughout my career. So I get the fact that it's really hard right now, that this is an incredibly challenging time to be a leader whether you're on the staff side or on the voluntary side in an association.

And so I do not say the things that I say lightly because I dismiss the difficulties that leaders in organizations face today. I say them because I very much want to help both CEOs and senior executives and boards of directors and other leaders in associations. I very much want to help them begin to craft a 21st-century leadership point of view, one that is I think qualitatively different from the leadership point of view of the 20th century association leader because it has to be.

And conditions dictate it, future trends dictate it, the realities of the marketplace dictate it. And I believe deeply that if we can build leadership capabilities and leadership points of view in our organizations both on the staff and voluntary side, that there are enormously powerful opportunities available to associations in the 21st century, but it requires that 21st-century mindset. It requires a different approach to what we've been doing. It requires us to let go of the past and to really begin to embrace the future.

Janelle: Thanks, Jeff. Everyone, that is Jeff De Cagna, the Chief Strategist and founder of Principled Innovation. You can find his website at and his blog is Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff: Hey, thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

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