Great Ideas 10 Recap: Innovation, Clarity, and Love

 As always, I had a fabulous time at the Great Ideas conference. It's as much fun as the ASAE Annual Meeting, but with only 500 participants, and we're all in one location so you have the chance for more frequent interactions with the people you know and get to know. The Broadmoor was quite an experience–particularly the food. Wow. (not to mention the view) 

And I was pleased with the sessions that I went to. Guy Kawasaki and Dan Pink (keynotes) were truly outstanding. I did skip a few sessions to prepare for my own presentation, but the ones I went to were a typical mix of good an engaging and fairly boring and content-light (I still dream of an association conference where I am at least mildly blown away by every session I go to. Not sure what we need to do to make that happen). And as is always the case, a couple of the great sessions I wanted to go to were during the time slot when I was presenting!

I know there will be recap posts aplenty, so I'm not claiming to have all the wisdom here, but a few points are sticking in my head.

1. Innovation is Making Progress

Guy Kawasaki's keynote was on the art of innovation. Jeff De Cagna (who has singlehandedly done more, in my opinion, to elevate the status of innovation in the association community over the last decade than anyone) did a half-day business model innovation workshop that had 40 participants. There were some other innovation sessions I didn't get to. But even in some of the social media sessions I was in, I could hear a willingness to experiment, a curiosity about "what's next" and a seemingly new ability to manage the fear of the unknown. Don't get me wrong–there were still the obligatory fear-based questions and some celebration of yesterday's answers, but I had an intuitive feeling that there is more potential for innovation in this community today than there was a few years ago.

2. Clarity over Control

This has been a mantra of mine for some time, though I think I need to give credit to either Lindy or Maddie for coining the phrase. It's an underlying principle for social media, but I would put it out as a theme from this meeting as well. It was one of the main conclusions from the session Maddie and I did on Truth And Authenticity in the Digital Age. As you manage your own identity in a world of facebook, twitter, and google, you won't be able to control who gets to see the different parts of you. So instead, get clear on who you want to be and be intentional about what you share. The same applies to organizations. The work of your association and the perception of what your organization is goes beyond your staff and even beyond your members. Provide clarity–a simple mantra, as Guy Kawasaki was saying–rather than detailed instructions to the various the parts in your system. Whether it's about social media or managing our employees, I feel like we need to simply get out of our own way. Stop forcing compliance, and start leveraging the power that emerges when people are more autonomous.

3. Loving the Association Community

That's the first draft of a Kawasaki-esque mantra for an organization I am near and dear to: YAP. Young Association Professionals emerged a few years ago and is probably best known for it's raucous dance parties at major ASAE events, but it's really much more than that. It offers support for people studying for the CAE exam, help in finding jobs, and a virtual community for everyone in the association community who embraces youth as an idea (and not necessarily related to your birth date, as is evidenced by my membership!). A few others and I have been talking about the essence of YAP, and the phrase "loving the association community" hit me this week at Great Ideas. YAP is all about helping people to just LOVE this community. We love it through outrageous fun, but also support, and communication, and friendship, and simply giving our all to what we do here. And that is precisely what I felt at Great Ideas this year. Sure, I hung out with my good friends like always, but I had engaging conversations with new people, and even got some of my esteemed colleagues on the ASAE Executive Management Section Council to come to the spontaneous YAP dance party Monday night. 

Keynotes are inspiring, and the concurrent sessions are engaging, and the food is tasty, and the friendships are deep and lasting. That's all good, but I would still put all of that in the "relevance" camp. But when you help me to love this whole community, you will open the door to possibilities not yet imagined.


  1. 17.03.2010 at 9:52 am

    Three excellent and salient points to take home from the conference! I already had one and two in my pocket, but I appreciate your clarity on number three. For a year, I have been describing to colleagues why I have enjoyed the atmosphere of Great Ideas. While the Annual is a conference like no other association event due to the sheer magnitude of people with whom to engage and quantity of learning selections, there is something inherent about Great Ideas that makes it stand out. What drew me to return in 2010 and to plan for 2011 is its smaller community environment. The event enables and encourages interactions and relationship building amongst the attendees because of the focus on innovation. I certainly left both 2009 and 2010 “feeling the love” within our community for our work and the learning environment.
    Thank you for helping me clarify my own thoughts!