Thursday, April 14, 2011

Innovation and collaboration

Recently I came across a white paper published by the Wisconsin Society of Association Executive entitled Innovation for Associations. The paper led me to the Innovation Hub for Associations. Innovation is written into NELLCO's mission statement and we aspire to be innovators. I think we're successful. And the reason we're successful is laid out very clearly in the WSAE whitepaper. The authors posit four traits of organizations that are successful innovators:
  1. Culture of innovation driven from the top of the organization
  2. Commitment of resources to the process of innovation
  3. Understanding the mind of the community
  4. Freedom to experiment and fail
NELLCO ticks every box. I would say that each of these is also true for collaboration. If you replace the word 'innovation' with 'collaboration' in numbers 1 and 2 on the list, the same traits will be found in organizations that are successful collaborators.

Which of these do you think is the hardest to cultivate? I think understanding the mind of the community is a moving target. It's like trying to squash a blob of mercury under your thumb (remember when we played with mercury!). "The mind of the community" is a misconstruction. Is there anywhere a community that thinks with a single mind? The job of NELLCO and other organizations is to understand the minds of the communities they serve. No small task. What are some ways an organization might approach this?

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