How Will Your Association React to Disruption?

By Elsbeth Russell • August 14, 2015

Identifying threats and examining a planning process to turn them into opportunities, was the overriding message of the session, “What’s Your Uber?” facilitated by Tom Morrison, the chief executive officer of the Metal Treating Institute and Layla Masri, the president of Bean Creative.

Tom Morrison
Tom Morrison, Metal Treating Institute

Morrison started out the session by warning attendees that the technology that will disrupt their marketplaces is already out there. He posed the question, “Why are associations so slow to respond?” and encouraged associations to consider ideas more deeply, rather than shooting them down right away.

Using the example of self-driven cars, Morrison showed how to brainstorm and list the different ways that such technology might have an impact on society. He listed the following areas as services that could potentially be disrupted in this case:

  • Body shopsself-driving car
  • Liability Insurance
  • Medical Care
  • City Governments
  • DUI Schools
  • Driving Schools
  • Car Insurance Companies
  • Auto Repair Shops
  • Automotive Manufacturers

“Are you getting your members prepared?” Morrison asked, adding that “your value to them is preparing them.”

So what does disruption look like on your radar? Masri said it can be different for every industry.

A disruptive product begins with a problem, she explained.

To identify disruptive products that may be coming down the pike, identify the practices that exist in your industry that drive customers crazy. You don’t have to be the one who creates the new product but you absolutely need to be part of the conversation, she said.

Layla Masri
Layla Masri, Bean Creative

Masri then offered examples of different technologies and products that caused disruption for traditional products.

  • Publishing: Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Communications: Skype versus long-distance; email versus postal service
  • Transactions: Paypal and Square versus Credit Card Terminals

She shared some tips for staying ahead of disruptive technologies:

  • Define disruption
  • Know who benefits from your disruption
  • Think bigger and better
  • Think like an outsider
  • Listen to your customers
  • Pinpoint problems in your industry
  • Work together with others in your industry
  • Uncover new ways to approach your already-existing customers
  • Discover what else your product can be used for
  • Make loyalty more convenient than disloyalty

With all these resources at our fingertips, what’s the primary barrier to innovation in associations?

Most association leaders are in favor of innovation, but not all will risk experimentation, Morrison explained.

He offered an action strategy, starting with asking “What can we do together better than our members can do separately?”

Next make sure you know your member market and customer inside and out. It helps to seek out consultants who can be your inside experts on technologies coming to your industry and identify industries that will introduce technology that will have a disruptive impact on your members.

Morrison suggested asking these consultants to speak at your meeting and form a task force to research, and bring best practices to the table.

What disruptive technologies do you see on the horizon in your industry? Will you work to innovate ahead of the change?

Elsbeth Russell is a senior content strategist with Naylor Association Solutions.