I had some interesting experiences at last week’s Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Florida, so I plan on a couple of posts to talk about what I learned.

At the beginning of the conference, I noticed that several of the people who had recently attended ASAE & The Center’s recent board and leadership meeting were talking a lot about new business models. This was apparently a hot topic at these meetings, which I think is great, because the association community seems to be a bit behind the curve on that topic (and that is putting it mildly). I was relieved to hear many different people (all of whom I consider to be top-notch thinkers in the field) excited about the prospect of exploring new models.

Then reality hit when I attended the sessions. In many of the web 2.0 related sessions and specifically in one session that was specifically exploring membership models from OUTSIDE the association world, the resistance was overwhelming. There were lots of people immediately turning to the "but here’s why that won’t work for associations" argument. Several even seemed to be angrily denouncing the new models, arguing that they weren’t good enough, because they didn’t seem to value the basis of the old model (and they didn’t seem to see the circular nature of that logic).

What struck me the most about all of this was the emotional charge to the discussion. There was a palpable emotional attachment to the old models. There didn’t seem to be a willingness to move towards the new models, explore them, or be curious about them. No one was asking people to close down their association and build a new one from scratch (not that there’s anything wrong with that idea, though!). But even mere curiosity about the new ideas seemed threatening.

It makes me think. There is a lot about what we are doing in our work to which we have developed an emotional attachment that doesn’t particularly serve us. Emotional energy at work can be a good thing, of course. It can be motivating and sustaining. I think it’s great when people feel strongly about their organizations or love doing their work. But it can also be blinding. It can prevent you from seeing new or different things, and it can pull you towards activities or approaches that no longer fit the current reality (but still make you feel good!).

Part of emotional intelligence is being aware of how these factors are at play. And that includes choosing to sometimes examine things that your gut says are wrong, bad, or a mistake. Those close to me know that one of my favorite phrases is "I’m not convinced." When someone is suggesting something that I don’t think is the correct or most effective way to do things, I try to stay open to their point of view as much as I can (without just caving in and agreeing to everything all the time), and I often do that by temporarily ending a conversation with "I’m not convinced." It lets me disagree with them while at the same time being open, after thinking about it, to being convinced. I become less defensive and more open to hearing their points and their perspective.

Jamie Notter