Tomorrow marks a minor experiment.
There are two organisations with whom I’ve had conversations in the past few months. Both are membership organisations – one a professional association, the other a sporting body. Both operate at an international level. Both have a number of challenges facing them, both strategically and operationally. Both, it appears on the face of it, share a common problem: how to attract new members.
Membership organisations in 2015 are facing something of a crisis. Unless you are a professional closed shop (Hello Doctors! Hello Lawyers!) what are the benefits of being a member of a membership organisation these days? Historically it was about access to a network, but in an era of social networks the value of a curated network, whilst still there, is diminishing (and the perception of its value diminishing even faster). If I can set up a group on Facebook for free for like-minded individuals, why would I choose to pay for membership of an organisation that in many instances can appear to be far less connected in modern terms?
The experiment tomorrow starts with the observation that these two very diverse organisations appear to be facing a very similar challenge. It then evolves from my strongly-held views that:
- although we are all striving to find someone who can give us all the answers, most of the nutty problems that we face can only be solved by ourselves and so coaching beats being directed by an expert and
- conversely, it’s often much easier for an outsider to be able to spot the wood in amongst someone else’s trees
So in January I dropped my contacts at these two organisations and suggested that the three of us should meet.
Tomorrow, at very least, two people who I think will get along and have some professional interests in common will meet. Maybe we’ll have a conversation that starts to unpick some of the challenges that both face. Maybe we’ll even think about how that can become an ongoing way of working. Maybe (and this is the really long shot) we’ll find a way that all of that can happen within which I can also carve out some sort of business. Hopefully both will give me permission to write a little about what happens.