Normalization of deviants is our capacity over time to stop thinking about something as weird. This happens in our everyday lives. Songs heard for the first time might seem odd but hear them again over and over and they may become favorites. I thought the new online bookstore Amazon had a very strange name the first time I heard it, now I don’t think twice about it. Interact with something weird long enough and it stops becoming weird.
We bump up against this issue in others all the time. At the doctors office the receptionist asks you to fill out 5 pages of paperwork before you see the doctor. Likely you’ll fill out your address and phone number at least three different times and you’ll have to write out your insurance card number at least twice (even though your insurance card was scanned and photocopied). Handing you 5 pages of paperwork and filing them all has become normal for the receptionist but a slightly frustrating exercise for you. No one in the office even questions why. Over the years more and more forms, some nearly duplicate, have been added to the stack.
Why should we care about this as association professionals? Because our associations are just a little quirky. We’ve gotten used to that quirkiness, probably so have our board members and long-time members but for new members, our quirkiness is odd. Odd and maybe even off-putting. Anytime our administrative systems deviate from the norm our members are mildly surprised, probably slightly frustrated.
Knowing that normalization of deviants can happen in any association with any staff team it’s worth look to see if this is happening and how it is effecting members. Start by tuning in to:
- Phone étiquette: is it normal for staff to allow calls to go to voicemail or is someone there to pick up?
- Event registration: how much are you asking for? Is it like filing for a passport or more like booking a hotel room?
- Website navigation: how well does your search work? How quickly can members get to the key information they need by career stage, project they are working on or issue they are having?
What at your association has been weird for so long it has stopped being weird?
- Intentionally designing member experiences
- Not just a member benefit but an experience
- Association trend watch: member experiences