Big ideas like big questions have a way of making you take a fresh look at what you think you know. Take this question from Acronym’s list of possible topics for Big Idea Month: What if associations came up with visions so compelling they would transcend petty politics?
I have helped many associations craft a shared vision for their preferred future. Just on principle, I hate cut-and-paste visions that do nothing to differentiate one organization from another. I coach them to be brave enough to put their heartfelt aspirations out there as a promise to their members and the public.
But do these visions transcend petty politics? Transcend is probably a bad choice of verbs to describe what really happens with a compelling vision. They don’t bring enlightenment. They bring change in all its messy, often contentious and demanding forms.
A compelling vision is more likely to confront petty politics and sacred cows. It’s really a battle cry for change rather than a kumbaya moment. A compelling vision should break up the peace and quiet of complacency.
As posed, the question suggests a longing to trade the world of politics for peace and harmony. The simplest definition of politics is achieving and using power. A vision signals to the world where you plan to use your power.
And your board and staff better be willing to unite behind this vision or else you can be confident the status quo defenders will do what they can to wear you down. Bold visions organize your association’s power in new directions. They leave some people behind muttering, “what about me and my favorite program or issue?”
So do create a compelling vision if you have the courage to have and use power to get what you really want in your world. Just don’t expect peace and harmony will come immediately… if ever. I believe a truly compelling vision would always keep you on edge and striving for your next worthy achievement.