Lead the Way: The Virtues of Being an Early Adopter

Even if your association doesn't immediately jump on the latest tech trends, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be an early adopter yourself. Why? Because when they're ready to take the next step, you'll already know whether that new doodad's worth the time.

Another day, another shiny object.

If you regularly read tech sites, you’ll find yourself constantly getting pitched on new things to try. Some of them might seem like good ideas—at the time, at least. Others, like the recently launched Draft, may show potential. And still others may just seem dumb with no reason to pursue further.

But trust me—keeping up with the latest and greatest offers major benefits to you … and possibly down the road, your association.

But trust me—keeping up with the latest and greatest offers major benefits to you … and possibly down the road, your association.

Early adopters may be the ones with the newest iPhone or Android device. They may try some weird method of productivity or go trailblazing on some social network you’ve never heard of. They may have even bought a Chromebook Pixel to use at home.

And, given the right opportunity and the right tools, they could be finding the next idea that makes your association stand out.

Among the benefits of being an early adopter:

Help tailor tools for your needs: If you get in on the right network at the right time and offer effective feedback, you can help shape it—as well as make it a better fit for your organization’s needs. Often, many startups are open to feedback that can make their service better for the audience they’re targeting. By starting a dialogue, you can help get a service that’s 60 percent of the way to your association’s needs a little closer to 100 percent.

Opportunities for thought leadership: Sometimes, getting in on the ground floor of something with a little bit of hype around it can help you stand out. One example from my own world: Recently, I got a chance to take advantage of the new decentralized blogging service Medium, launched by some of the founders of Twitter. The results were pretty impressive—two of my three posts were chosen as editor’s picks, and one went viral on Twitter. Now, I’m not saying that’s what will happen for everyone—I certainly wasn’t trying for that, but it was a nice little benefit—but putting your voice on new platforms can create these opportunities to amplify your ideas beyond what you could do with a press release.

You’ll know what you’re talking about: Six months after the fact, when someone at a meeting brings up this really cool idea—a new platform, a new way of doing things, a cloud-based service, a social network that offers a useful innovation for your industry—you’ll not only know what they’re talking about, but you’ll be able to bring fully formed insight to the conversation. Suddenly the discussion is no longer about the shiny object—it’s about how something that’s been road-tested can be utilized in a broader way.

Last week, I had a chance to talk with Tiffany Shackelford of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, and a lot of what she said struck to the heart of this early-adopter mentality: the willingness to fall fast, the reaching out to small startups for ideas, the agile approach to building things.

But let’s face it. Not every association is there right now. And to take it a step further, it’s hard to make changes on an organizational level and sell them to your members unless you’ve created a culture where your members have come to expect that. And that’s OK. For a lot of industries, that doesn’t necessarily work. However, that doesn’t mean you should take your finger off the pulse yourself.

It’s better to know what’s out there and not use it than to remain blissfully unaware.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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