From the Corner Office

A Q&A with John Graham, President & CEO of ASAE

By Association Adviser staff • August 17, 2016

While at the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo in Salt Lake City earlier this week, we had the chance to sit down with John Graham, president and CEO of ASAE, to talk about the meeting itself and how associations can better serve their membership. An excerpt of that interview appears below. Check back later this month for the full interview.

ASSOCIATION ADVISER: Having two astronauts as opening keynote speakers was an intriguing choice for this type of gathering. What do you think attendees got out of their talk most?

John Graham, ASAE
John Graham, CAE, FASAE, ASAE

GRAHAM: The main takeaways for me: Just because you are not good at something initially, doesn’t mean you can’t get good at it and improve. The second thing is that you should simply focus on what you can control.

ASSOCIATION ADVISER: We’ve heard a tremendous emphasis on innovation and the need to create breakthrough products, service and business models. Can you ever have too much innovation and run the risk of not having the bandwidth to sustain it?

GRAHAM: I look at innovation through two lenses. The first lens is the discipline of examining something, evaluating it and making adjustments as needed. Some of those adjustments may not be sexy. It may not be rocket science, but it’s improvement, and that’s one form of innovation. The other form of innovation, that’s more difficult – that’s the Blue Sky, Blue Ocean type. How do you develop a discipline around creating new ideas? We use a process at ASAE called Design Thinking that came out of Darden Business School at University of Virginia.

ASSOCIATION ADVISER: We’ve been talking a lot about the “new normal” this week. What can associations do to better serve the “what’s in it for me?” membership mindset?

GRAHAM: At the end of the day, you need to maintain your relevance to members. There are a number of ways to do that. We are moving into an engagement model. It means people engage on a continuum of activity. No matter how large or small your organization is, you need to have ways for customers, constituents and potential members, not just active members, to engage with you on the level they want to engage with you that they find most valuable. It’s based on what the individual wants. They may not know everything you have. They may not know everything you have on your menu. The trick is to make it easy to peruse your menu, but don’t penalize them if they only order the entrée or the appetizer.

A full interview with Graham will appear later this month. Follow Association Adviser on Twitter @AssocAdviser for the latest association thought leadership and best practices.