I tend to avoid TV shows but sometimes, especially in restaurants with TV’s plastered to each and every wall, they are hard to avoid. One night I was out to dinner with my husband trying very hard to ignore the blaring TV’s all around but like they say, resistance is futile. Soon I found myself watching a show, Dancing with the Stars, I think. One of the contestants was talking about her practice. She talked about practicing with a broken finger. She talked about blistered toes and getting dropped. But what really interested me was how much she practiced, about 6-8 hours a day. If her partner couldn’t practice that much she found a stand-in.
We know that athletes must practice. Dancers, surfers, skaters and tennis players all practice. In any sport those who are the best in their field practice hours and hours a day. We know this. Through practice athletes get stronger. Maybe more importantly they learn muscle memory. Maybe more importantly they do the moves so many times correctly over and over again they gain confidence. Practice doesn’t just work for athletes but also for musicians and artists and actors. Why then do we forget about the value of practice in a business context?
We Need to Change, Now What?
Member needs change. Revenues decline. Industries go through revolutions. One way or another associations come to the point where they have to change to meet new needs. Many association have been offering the same or similar line up of benefits and services for decades. Then suddenly we want to pull the trigger on innovation and the problems begin. Problems like:
- How do we know what to add?
- No one wants to sunset products to make room for new things.
- Will these new product ideas work? Can we afford them?
- Do we have the wrong people on the staff to do this?
- Our plates are too full already.
We find that each step in our innovation project is excruciatingly painful as roadblock after roadblock appears.
But some organizations change. Some organizations, like successful startups and IDEO, are nimble every day. And some organizations, even giant, bureaucracy-laden institutions like IBM have figured out how to implement extreme-turn-the-company-inside-out-and-upside-down changes. How are they doing it? Practice.
Practice small and get bigger
The more risk the more likely the project will drag on. No one will be willing to pull the trigger and be wrong and risk a critical organization-maiming mistake. So start small. Make little changes. Get a process going. Allocate resources. Celebrate some wins. Then bit by bit grow. Make bigger and bigger changes.
Constantly innovating means that change becomes more routine, nothing to be scared of. When innovation projects are going on all the time we have allocated the time and resources. We have a process to follow. We have the know-how and confidence. Starting a big innovation project in a vacuum is really difficult and painful. Avoid that by practicing change consistently.
Practice adopting the mindset of change
Wanting to change is difficult when we think that our job is on the line. Change is hard when failure is not an option. Change is not even on the radar when we are rewarded for doing what we have always done. Successful change and innovation means the staff and the board have adopted the mindset of change. This means setting goals for change, rewarding good innovative work and allowing for failure along the way.
Does your association need to change? Let’s steal a playbook from the world of sports and start practicing change.