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Curiosity, creativity, experimentation, and failure. Touch on one or more of these terms and what they mean to reimagining associations.


On September 15th, Fonteva welcomes Reggie Henry, CAE, KiKi L’Italien, Dave Martin, and Ben Muscolino to tackle some of the big questions facing associations as they look toward and plan for the future.

As a precursor to that event, we asked each to share a brief answer to the question: Curiosity, creativity, experimentation, and failure. Touch on one or more of these terms and what they mean to reimagining associations. Answers are listed as shared with Fonteva directly by the panelists.

Reggie Henry, CAE
Chief Information & Engagement Officer

I think all of these are important, but if you asked me which one is the “driver” in this sequence, I think it’s curiosity. I think it’s the thing that allows us to constantly ask “what if?”.  Not just in any given situation, but all the time. In today’s world “legacy” thinking/policies/systems don’t have to be 5-10 years old, legacy might be something you put in place last year that is no longer appropriate. Think how quickly our current environment is changing. Suppose change, and this pace, is the new norm. We have to be ready for that.  I have a slightly different approach to the “fail fast” montra.  It’s learn fast!  The result of experimentation doesn’t necessarily have to be portrayed as success or failure.  Maybe it should be portrayed as “what did we learn that we can take forward?”

KiKi L’Italien
Association Chat Community Host

Curiosity, creativity, experimentation, and failure. You can’t have the first three without experiencing the fourth. For an industry that is known for being risk-averse, reimagining associations requires every term just listed, including the “F” word. Curiosity is a muscle that can atrophy or grow and I dream of a roadshow of industry leaders hosting conversations regionally to work on this idea of what it means to be an association today…and what it should mean in the future. Associations are weird and magnificent. They can accomplish so much and play a vital role in our culture that most people never think about. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just true. Associations serve a critical purpose for society and what that looks like in the future requires curiosity about so many things, not the least of which is a solid inquiry into  whether the way we talk about associations needs to change. The role of associations must be protected and that is hard to do when many people, even people who work as association employees, don’t understand what an association is in the first place. Whether talking about them as trusted sources for information or paving the way in addressing workforce issues, we need associations and their dedication to a mission over time more now than ever. That means we need all the curiosity and creativity that we can muster. And now I need a nap.

Dave Martin
Blue Cypress

No doubt, in my mind, curiosity is one of the most critical skill sets to associations reimagining themselves. When we are curious we are learning and thinking of ways to improve how we do our daily jobs. When individuals and organizations are curious they adopt an “Always Be Learning” mindset. Curiosity leads to knowledge which leads to self-disruption. Self-disruption is where we re-think what we are doing on a daily/weekly basis, where we are open to new ideas, and eager to try new things. We refuse to accept the status quo. In many ways, individuals who are curiosity and self-disruptors are inherently creative. So creativity and curiosity go hand-in-hand.

One way I determine whether a candidate is curious in the interview process is to ask them a series of questions like Who is your favorite thought leader? Or What marketing blogs or podcasts do they consume? Or what one marketing book has inspired you the most (and why)? You’d be surprised how many times people struggle to answer that question. I steer clear of those candidates.

Ben Muscolino
President & CEO

Having a culture to highlight peoples willingness to question the current state of things but now showcase failure is important i think. Curiosity, creativity, experimentation are key to not just come up with new ideas, but more importantly, with the theme of “reimagining things”, challenge yourself publicly and those around you to improve what’s there/  What more can we do with the data we have, the content we have, the members or reach that we have, to just do more with that. Generating new data and new programs or implementing new systems is key to success, but getting people to be curious about how to make what they already have work better for them; these are the things that allow associations to reimagine a new level of success or efficiency that’s even easier to measure for your members and boards as well. It’s not always changing what we do, but how we do things. Love this topic!

Find all the questions we asked and meet our panelists.

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