A Few Great Ideas From Great Ideas 2016

From office culture to innovation strategies, a few important highlights from the 2016 edition of the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in Colorado.

From office culture to innovation strategies, a few important highlights from the 2016 edition of the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in Colorado.

If you didn’t make it to Colorado this week for Great Ideas, you missed out on quite a few … wait for it … great ideas.

But with the number of ideas floating around out there, deciding on the ones to embrace—whether or not you saw them in person—can be a challenge. Here are some of our favorites from the conference, which took place this year at The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs:

Cool Offices Are Great; Cool Cultures Are Better

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is known for its modern, open office in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood; what’s less known is that the society has become a beacon of hipness, a culture that permeates far beyond the modern devices and the “idea ranch” that define the office space.

While ASSH Executive Vice President & CEO Mark Anderson spoke highly of these things, what stood out during his Idea Lab were the thoughts of Olivia Moran, ASSH’s senior manager of digital communications (and someone Anderson describes as “cool”). She didn’t focus on these elements when explaining why ASSH is a great place to work; instead, she pointed to the fact that she and her coworkers are respected and trusted.

That, she says, helps make the culture “cool” more than the office space does—and that’s something that can translate to any office.

(It also helps that ASSH knows how to have fun—and the society’s staff of 21 isn’t afraid to share in the fun with members who show up at their door. “When they come, we get the kind of beer they like,” Moran says.)

Aim Beyond Your Membership

The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) has something in common with Great Ideas opening general-session speaker Andrew Boynton: They’re fans of IDEO. A few years back, the association dipped into its reserves to have the design and consulting firm take a good hard look at the association’s offerings. During a Monday presentation, ASPB Director of Member Services and Digital Strategy Susan Cato revealed the fruit of IDEO’s research: a new community platform, currently in beta, called Plantae.

The platform aims to create a way for people active in plant biology, but not necessarily ASPB members, to dive into the topic. ASPB also collaborated with a number of other groups to encourage nonmembers to take part, along with digital strategist Maddie Grant and the data-analysis firm Bear Analytics.

And while a paid membership to Plantae is available, the business model is built around e-commerce offerings—including ASPB’s journal, which is being made available to nonmembers for the first time.

“This is not about ASPB membership. This is about the plant-science community,” Cato said of the platform.

Other Event Highlights

The Alliance for Innovation, a local-government group, was facing cramped city budgets, which created challenges in hosting physical meetings. Its solution? The alliance turned to virtual meetings, in which, unlike a common webinar, everyone has a webcam available and conversations can be had. The alliance, which described the process during a Tuesday Idea Lab, relies on Citrix videoconferencing platforms to get audiences, and can handle as many as 15 to 20 people in a single online meeting.

Does innovation have to be radical? Not everyone has the budget to pull off a new office purchase or start a radical new online forum. But you don’t necessarily need that. During a Monday panel led by a number of former ASAE Innovation Grant Program recipients, participants discussed the importance of different kinds of innovation—evolutionary, expansionary, and revolutionary. Each type of innovation carries different risks and has to be sold in different ways.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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