Insights 
Blog Post

Driving Purpose & Breaking Boundaries

March 20, 2018
man and women business

At the recent American Society of Association Executives’ Great Ideas 2018 conference, association professionals from around the country met in Colorado Springs to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing their industry.

Many of the discussions centered on ways in which associations can improve communications to address the challenges many feel in advancing their individual missions and collective impact, and to navigate uncharted territories in their workplaces and customer experiences.

Your Brand + Instincts

William Espey, brand voice lead for Colorado-born Chipotle, talked about the critical role played by front-line staff in expressing an organization’s brand throughout the customer experience and driving impact and outcomes. He challenged associations to use their brands to express their values, which in turn can help to create emotional connections and cultivate long-term relationships with customers.

Espey also shared how some of Chipotle’s greatest successes were born out of naiveté, when he made decisions early in the company’s history that ultimately paid off. In an age when data is considered king, it’s a good reminder that instinct still plays a role in decision making and marketing success.

Keynote speaker Natalie Fikes echoed the value of instinct and chance-taking to help drive innovation in the workplace.

“When you’re leading people, you have to have a MacGyver mindset. That means there is no box. There aren’t any rules.”

Using an unexpected on-stage cartwheel to illustrate her point, Fikes continued: “Innovation, ideas, creativity all happen in the moment—and in the moment, there are no rules. If there are no rules and your employees don’t know what to expect, they’re going to do whatever comes to mind. And guess what? That’s how ideas are formed. That’s how things happen. That’s how innovation occurs.”

Rethinking Workplaces

At the Women Executive Forum, Design Thinker Natalie Nixon challenged leaders to re-think our workplaces to achieve “boundary spanning” strategy.

Tomorrow’s workplaces, says Nixon, will move away from siloed structures, jobs centered on individual skillsets and specialties, and documented procedures—and move toward those that are confident in ambiguity, driven by purpose, and open to improvisation rather than ruled by process.

The Importance of Purpose

Keynote Smiley Poswolsky also referenced the need for associations to build purpose-driven, experiential communities—regardless of the demographic cohort that defines its workforce.

“Working with purpose isn’t just for Millennials,” says Poswolsky. “It’s cross-generational.”

To gain an advantage, we recommend association leaders empowering staff to engage across internal silos. This can help to generate new thinking that can deliver more value to your members through improved programs or services and make it easier to do business with your organization.

In an era when associations are increasingly challenged to demonstrate relevance to their members, we’re confident this emerging focus on purpose- and values-driven communications will help them to flourish and strengthen relationships with members and customers.

It has certainly worked for us: Both SE2’s niche and internal values center on this critical and increasingly popular concept—Work with Purpose.