9 Disruptive Ideas for Associations to Watch

These approaches may not be the ones your association needs right now, but they could be the ones that end up driving innovation. Put them in your back pocket for later.

The ground is always changing under our feet, so it’s good to have an idea of where to get our footing again.

As I noted in my piece on disruption a while back, we’re always seeing pushback against ideas that challenge convention, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to them. They could change or DNA or pull out the rug from under us if we’re not ready to embrace them.

The ahead-of the-curve disruptions on this list aren’t all technology-related, but they all challenge expectations—they swim upstream, zagging when everyone else is zigging. They don’t represent the status quo at the moment—but there’s a good chance that, given a little time, the status quo could catch up to get here. They may not make sense for you right now, but they make sense for somebody now, and they could for you later.

They don’t represent the status quo at the moment—but there’s a good chance that, given a little time, the status quo could catch up to get here.

So, with that, check out a few of my favorite disruptions from the Associations Now archives.


1. Apps That Drive Advocacy

For those looking to energize their fundraising, take a gander at the app-based Amicus tool. It has received significant funding so far and has drawn attention for its mix of technology and human touch. From a November 2012 piece on the tool: “While other companies in similar markets, such as Causes, use Facebook and other social media outlets to interact with end users, Amicus mixes it up—utilizing VOIP-based phone calls and personalized postcards to facilitate the interactions.” Though not using Amicus, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. has taken a similar approach with its app ABC Action and has seen much success as a result.



Freelancers Union

2. Hybrid Organizational Approaches

Is the Freelancers Union an association or a union? And does it matter? With more than 200,000 members, the organization’s approach—which includes providing access to healthcare for its members, who often struggle to get it through other means—has elements of both membership group and union, and its success at combining approaches suggests a fascinating future path that other industry groups could follow.



Member benefit apps

3. Member Benefit Apps

The app Larky helps consumers take advantage of member benefits they already have lying around. As cofounder Andrew Bank told us back in April: “Lots of people hunt for discount codes and special deals and this often pays off with enough time and smarts. But millions of people are actually entitled to discounts that they are not getting. We think that people should get discounts automatically when they’re entitled and they shouldn’t have to go searching for anything.”



Hyperlocal apps

4. Hyperlocal Apps

As my colleague Corey Murray pointed out last month, CO Everywhere may not be designed specifically for conferences, but its hyperlocal approach to social media could really come in handy at the convention center. “What if you could press a button, look at a map, and visualize the strength of your social signal? That’s precisely what a new app from online startup CO Everywhere aims to enable users to do. The app (formerly known as BlockAvenue) reportedly lets users aggregate the social media traffic—including Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos, and more—in a specific geographic area.” Cool stuff.



Landline phones

5. The Decline of the Landline

Speaking of phones… For many, this may seem a little odd, but the landline phone—a staple of the office seemingly since the dawn of time—has been seeing a sharp decline of late. Some companies, such as Evernote, have done away with them entirely. “Everyone’s got a cellphone, and the company pays for the plans,” CEO Phil Libin said at the time. “There are phones in the conference room. We’re not a sales organization, so we’re not making a lot of calls, either. If you’re at your desk, you should be working. And that’s actually worked really well. I don’t think anyone misses phones.” Could you see yourself using your office phone less?



Navigation apps

6. Apps to Navigate Events

Where’s my next session? If you’ve heard attendees desperately asking that question at your event, you might be wondering where to go next. Some associations, such as the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference and the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, have taken this to heart, utilizing nav-heavy apps at their conferences. “Within four days, there is so much going on and so much information to take in; it will be immensely useful to have the app act as a guide. And of course, with friendly reminders to stop chatting and get to the next session,” HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe, CAE, said about his app.



Social intranets

7. Rebooting Your Intranet

Did you know that 85 percent of organizations in a recent survey say they have an intranet of some kind? It’s true. And those intranets are often one-way affairs that don’t allow for social elements. As a recent study notes, the tide could be turning toward networks that allow stronger elements of social engagement.



Software as a Service

8. Software as a Service

Earlier this year, creative software giant Adobe did something really interesting: It ditched its high-priced Creative Suite in shrink-wrapped form and replaced it with online-based Creative Cloud platform. This drew many questions at the time, but the results so far—last month, the platform topped a million subscribers—suggest it was a good move. The changes in the association management software sphere are probably the most direct manifestation of this phenomenon affecting associations. As I noted last month, the AMS space is evolving fast.



Open plan office

9. Changing Where You Work

Your workers hate open plan offices. So why do you have one? That’s a question that drew a lot of attention just last month. But why stop there? Maybe you can move your employees into a coworking space (or at least take some inspiration from one). Maybe telecommuting is the solution (or maybe not). And don’t discount the hotel lobby as a perfect locale for getting stuff done. Everyone loves a lobbyist.

What’s the most disruptive thing that you’ve seen happen in your space in the last year? Let us know your take in the comments.

Think of this article as your own personal seismograph. (iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!