Please, Ask Me What I Think

After designing and facilitating an innovation prize competition and a design thinking process within one year for two very different associations, I see the same magic at work in both experiences:  asking members what they think in a fun and engaging way.

In the innovation prize competition for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, members participated in teams to come up with breakthrough solutions to two significant challenges in the industry.  They didn’t win any major prize….just the chance to have the AIHA board hear their ideas and possibly act on them. See Create Breakthrough Innovation the X Prize Way for more information on how this prize competition worked.  For ideas on other approaches, see Ignite Industry Competition with an Innovation Competition featured in Associations Now.

Likewise, members of the National Art Education Association were invited at their annual conference to help design the next generation of the association in a strategic planning studio. This was an inclusive and immersive experience to discover what members really want. We were blown away.  We collected more than 800 “comment” cards eliciting ideas about the future of the association and a couple hundred or more people also filled the walls of the studio with their ideas and images. Now these are art educators who love an opportunity and an environment to express themselves; still the outpouring of input was surprising. Until you stop to think--they were genuinely thrilled to have this direct and creative line of input into the board’s strategic planning process.

Both the innovation prize competition and the design studio took the mystery out of how to get new ideas and aspirations for the profession and association heard.  The processes were open, transparent, collaborative and fun.

They are just two examples of creative group processes that ask members what they think in ways that get answers no survey with its true, false or Likert scale can quantify.  Answers that have more spontaneity than even the best structured focus group can elicit. And let’s not even compare these results to town halls or delegate assemblies where people jockey for power and position.

So yes, ask your members what they think. Just think first about how you ask them. If what you want are  fresh perspectives and members helping you create the outcomes, try something engagingly different.