Why Innovation Matters

So why does innovation matter? What we did last year worked well enough. Why change?

The answer is that the world is constantly changing around you. Look back five years and consider any element of business, politics, society, even your own personal relationships. I challenge anyone to point to one that has not changed at least moderately.

Given that change is constant, doing what you have always done is not going to get you the same return. If you decide you want to actually raise the bar on what you are achieving, then innovation becomes even more important.

That is why innovation matters. It is required for the ongoing survival of your organization. It is paramount if you wish to improve on your current position today.

What is Innovation?

I gave a presentation at ASAE’s Great Ideas conference this past Saturday on innovation, technology and risk for associations. This post is the first of several I’m going to write this week on elements of the presentation. A good question to start with is: what is innovation?

Innovation often gets mythologized in the business press to the point that mere mortals feel that they cannot hope to do something innovative in their work. However, to innovate merely means to do something as you haven’t done it before. Not much more to it than that.

Peter Drucker, in his seminal book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, defines two kinds of innovation: supply-side innovation and demand-side innovation.

Supply-side innovation is when you improve the use of your resources in support of existing value delivered to your customers. This is often in the form of greater efficiency but could also mean achieving the same end via means that result in improved employee morale, for example.

Demand-side innovation refers to changes that create greater value for your customers. This could be improving an existing product or service or creating entirely new offerings. The impact of the innovation is on the value received/perceived by the ultimate customer.

Looking at it in those terms, it is easy to realize that you probably innovate something every week if not every day. Innovation is merely the creation of new value.

Update: Here are the slides from the presentation:

Lack of Paper Leads to Slides?

I am preparing for two sessions I am presenting at ASAE’s Great Ideas conference in Orlando. One is about new models for book publishing that leverage the Web and the other is on taking risks with technology.

ASAE has gone paperless for their conferences in the last few years, to save money and a few trees. All the handouts are available for download via their web site. I just noticed how this is impacting how I design my sessions, however.

I like to present visual models for some of my ideas and walk participants through using them in their own work. This keeps everything very practical and helps to translate the material I am sharing into tangible results for the people in the session. If I could distribute a workbook or set of handouts, I could do without slides completely. But I can’t count on anyone actually having the handout in front of them. So, I have to do slides.

It’s a bit counter-intuitive but I think that banning all paper handouts can actually counter another change ASAE has been encouraging, which are more interactive sessions that rely less on slide decks. What do you think?

Unleashing Web Strategy in Cambridge Maryland

I am presenting this afternoon at the Maryland Non Profits Annual Meeting in Cambridge, Maryland. The session, Unleashing the Strategic Potential of the Web, is about aligning your web strategy with that of the overall organization.

I will introduce several concepts and tools that are useful for defining and creating strategic alignment. We will then walk through the process right in the room. Everyone should leave with a good start on defining how their site should contribute to their overall mission and goals.

I am making an audio recording of the session. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll give you first crack at the audio product when it is ready.

Update: See the store for this now.

A Couple Conference Opportunities for June

There are two conferences I’ll be attending in DC in June that I wanted to let you know about. They happen to overlap but are in the same building, so you could hit them both if you wanted.

First, Jeff De Cagna is spearheading a social media unconference for association executives on June 5, 2007 at ASAE & the Center’s meeting space in the Reagan Building. The event is free and will be driven by the attendees. Simply add your name to the registration list on the web site if you wish to attend. I’m very excited this event is happening and I encourage you to attend if you are passionate about social media and/or want to learn more about it.

The second event is the Gilbane Washington DC conference on June 5-6, 2007, also at the Reagan Building. This conference focuses on content management technologies for government and non-profit organizations. Content is tracked, so there should be something for everyone. I will be facilitating a panel on integrating association and content management systems and processes. This event is not free but you can get a $100 discount by entering my last name as a promotional code when you register.

I hope to see you at one or both events!

Notcasting: What Not to Do on Your Podcast

Paul Bissex has posted a great list of things not to do on your podcast:

  • I Must Apologize for the Terrible Sound Quality of the Last Podcast
  • I Must Apologize for the Terrible Sound Quality of the Present Podcast
  • I Must Apologize for Not Making a Podcast in Several Days/Weeks/Months
  • Thank You for All Your Emails Telling Me What I’m Doing Wrong
  • I Need to Speak Very Quietly, My (Mom|Dad|Girlfriend|Ferret) is Sleeping
  • There Is a Very Exciting Thing Coming at the End of This Podcast But I Won’t Tell You What It Is
  • We Only Have One Microphone for the Three of Us
  • We Are Laughing About This Thing, Ha Ha, You Kind of Had to Be There
  • I Had Big Plans for This Episode But They Just Didn’t Work Out
  • Please Listen to My Next Podcast, It Will Be Better Than This One I Promise

No one cares about any of that! Just do your best and be interesting. This is important because it is functionally impossible to skim a podcast as you can with text.

Only at Freedom to Connect

I was at the Freedom to Connect conference earlier this week at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, MD. The conference covered internet and telecom policy issues for hard core tech/policy geeks and had a who’s who of wonks, scientists, lobbyists and gurus in attendance. Even a member of Congress.

The time was ripe for one of the most surreal DC moments of my life to happen at this meeting:

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein jamming on stage with Howard Levy, a world-renowned harmonica musician, while Scooter Libby’s conviction was reported in a chat channel projected 20 feet tall on the screen behind them. Woo!

I’ll post some of my notes and comments about the conference over the next couple of days.

Attention Economy for Associations Podcast

As promised, here is the podcast that Ben and I recorded this morning. It runs just shy of 17 minutes.


MP3 File

One note: In the recording we mention that the Attention Trust sells attention data. I believe this is incorrect in that they offer a service for storing your own attention data online but do not sell that data. What benefit this offers to the individual is unclear to me. Maybe Ed Batista can chime in here on the comments on what benefit you would receive from loading your data into one of their providers.

Investing in the Attention Economy

Ben Martin and I will be facilitating a session at the upcoming ASAE & the Center Membership and Marketing Conference. We had a short article in an ASAE newsletter recently on this very topic as a lead-in to the session. You can read the full text of it below. Ben and I will also be recording a short podcast on this topic early next week. Check back here on Tuesday to listen in.

Hope to see you at the session!

Investing in the Attention Economy
By C. David Gammel, CAE, and Ben Martin, CAE

The amount of available information is growing exponentially, but human attention seems to be a limited resource. We each only have a finite number of hours in the day with which to live our personal and professional lives. The same is true for our members.

In fact, associations compete with each other and thousands of other organizations for the attention of their members. People are distracted by millions of inconsequential information sources and must filter them out in order to recognize the things that are most important to them.

To cope, many of our members work in a state of continuous partial attention. Often they divide their attention among several things at once, such as scanning e-mail or news headlines while talking on a conference call. Your latest carefully crafted newsletter might only receive a cursory glance before hitting the electronic version of the circular file. The implication: Your members must be able to quickly scan and discern the value of your communications if you want them to invest a higher level of attention.

This has significant implications for membership recruitment and retention. Members, for instance, base their decision to renew their memberships on the basis of their feelings of connection and engagement. That’s why it’s crucial that you get an appropriate amount of your members’ attention. Generally speaking, a prospect’s attention must be 100 percent captured for at least a few moments in order to complete any financial transaction.

The study of attention is called attention economics–a combination of economic analysis and data about the things to which people give their attention. Steve Gillmor, a popular writer and podcaster on Web technology, turned this research into a trend by gathering data on what people are paying attention to on the Internet and leveraging that data to provide better service and content.

Attention economics raises many questions for associations. How much of your members’ attention do you receive? How much do you want? What will you need to give to your members in exchange for their attention? Does an increase in attention per member mean that your revenue per member will increase as well?

To help answer these questions and further explore this topic, be sure to come to “The Unsession: How to Invest in the Attention Economyâ€? at ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership’s 2006 Marketing & Membership Conference. This “unsessionâ€? will be highly interactive and driven by the participants. We’re limiting attendance to the first 40 participants, so be sure to arrive early!

Update: Ed Batista, Executive Director of the Attention Trust, posted some more details about Steve Gillmor’s role in developing the idea of the attention economy. Thanks, Ed! (Ed’s personal blog was just added to Tom Peters’ blogroll. Nice!)