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New Minds for New Times
by Sandra Trice Gray

See the complete list of articles by Sandra Gray.

"All that is needed for a new universe is a new mind." ? William Carlos Williams.

As association executives, we must recognize that we're leading in a time when many of the comfortable operational mechanisms of yesterday are no longer adequate to meet today's challenges, much less those of the future. Doing well what we're doing now is not the prescription for success in the 21st century. A new way of thinking and perceiving is required.

According to organization and management consultant Jennifer James, president of Jennifer James, Inc., Seahurst, Washington, who spoke at a recent ASAE Fellows retreat, we're no longer living in urban industrial times, which required a more pragmatic leadership approach. With change as the norm in this present global service stage, leaders today must be able to adapt to new customer demands and new ways of doing business. We must be capable of providing quality service at rapid rates ? and of helping others do the same.

Association leaders have two primary resources for succeeding in these new times: technology and people. We must focus on learning to access the full potential of both.

Technology. Most organizations desperately need to invest in technology ? not necessarily to buy more computers, but to apply the computer capabilities and software they have in ways that help them achieve their organizations' service needs. For example, are you able to send broadcast fax messages to a specific portion of your membership? Or can your database produce mailing lists in complete membership sets only? Do you view your computer system as a flexible tool for managing information, or are you simply using technology to do old processes faster? What are you currently doing to shape your technology to meet future needs?

People. Computers, modems, and the Internet aside, our most valuable resource is still our people. As association leaders, we must stay focused on organizational mission and put that mission into our ever-evolving vision of future needs and demands. But a single leader no longer is able to make all the best decisions. Teamwork no longer means everyone pulling together to do as the leader says; it means a group led by a coordinating, focus-setting leader who involves all the players in anticipating future needs and determining how to get where the group needs to go. The new mind needed for the world in which we live and work today requires greater openness and inclusiveness, providing more opportunities for more people to participate. As responsible leaders, we cannot afford to assume from whom, or at what level, in the organization critical to the health of the organization.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you training yourself to understand the demands of these new times, and are you in turn helping others think in new ways?
  • Are both your people and your technology supporting your ability to accomplish your organization's mission?
  • In what ways can staff members help evaluate and fulfill your organization?s future service needs?

We must explore ? beginning today ? the best of what our technology and people can offer that will help us serve others. To thrive in these new times, we must create new minds ? and then use them.


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