Smart Association Execs Will Want to Earn an A in Foresight

Marsha Rhea, president, Signature i, LLC, encouraged association executives at the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives Mid-Year Meeting June 21 in Philadelphia, to establish foresight programs to inform their strategies, learning programs, risk management and innovation efforts.

Rhea described how the ASAE Foundation’s new foresight research program, to be launched later this summer, will provide overviews of 40 change drivers and provide easy-to-use resources and tools to help associations structure their own foresight program to continuously monitor trends and issues.

She gave five good reasons to earn an A in exploring the future before offering some basic tips and short-cuts to make practicing foresight easier to do.

Avoid ignorance. Don’t be the last to know. People join associations to stay current with trends and issues in their field.

Anticipate: Spot challenges and opportunities early enough to react. Foresight helps prevent crisis management and enables associations to prepare to do bold things.

Analyze: Understand the potential implications. Your members need the collective insight of their association to make sense of uncertainty and change.

Advise.  Recommend smart strategy and business decisions. Your boards expect you to give good guidance.

Act. Choose where you will lead the future. Associations can work toward their preferred future.

She offered practical steps for organizing a foresight team such as encouraging staff champions and asking relevant member committees to add scouting the future to their charge. Strategic business partners may be another resource especially in areas like technology.

In addition to relying on the ASAE Foundation research, she also advised MASAE participants to read the environmental scans and future-oriented reports that other associations, government agencies, foundations and corporate partners make publicly available. She also recommended crowdsourcing at meetings as she did to kick off this session by asking people to identify trends and issues they are monitoring. Associations also can use social media to tap into crowd wisdom to identify hot topics.

The ASAE Foundation is encouraging associations to engage members in creating a culture of foresight. Boards should be talking about future changes regularly. Associations can also engage members through task forces, think tanks, surveys, online forums and townhalls.

Rhea previewed anticipatory intelligence, one of three change drivers the ASAE Foundation has planned for release this summer. Anticipatory intelligence emerges from data analysis and predictive analytics and will enable associations to analyze member interactions and gain greater insight into personalizing the member experience.

Rhea will join with three colleagues August 13 to lead a learning lab at the ASAE Annual Conference to launch the new ASAE Foundation foresight program. This education session will feature three change drivers: anticipatory intelligence, virtualized meetings, and the aging world.