Business Strategy | Leadership / Management

Want to rule the future? Forget what you know

I go to a lot of conferences each year -- just trying to keep my L > C, you know -- but the American Society of Association Executives' Annual Meeting has quickly become my favorite.

Why? Well, for one thing, they bring in folks like The Go-Gos to perform. The entertainment is Head Over Heels, if you catch my drift.

The big draw for me, though, is the education. Naturally, it's geared toward associations, but you know what? Associations are simply trying to help their clients succeed -- just like every other business out there. Seen through that lens, a lot of the stuff they teach us at ASAE applies directly to CPAs, too.

So here you go, CPAs -- a deep, soul-shaking question raised at ASAE this year:

How much are you willing to forget?

The pace of change is staggering. The way we do business today won't be the way we do it tomorrow. Doing something because "we've always done it that way" doesn't cut it anymore. We're going to have to un-learn some stuff to serve our clients going forward, and why?

As ASAE Chief Information Officer Reggie Henry says, the folks entering the workforce today are going to "demand different." A case in point is e-mail. The youngest generations don't use it the way we do. Are we prepared to communicate with them in the ways that work for them?

Associations consultant Jeff De Cagna puts it another way:

"If associations are to survive, they must be able to question their most orthodox beliefs."

That applies to all of us, by the way -- not just associations.

De Cagna calls this the "age of transformation," defined by openness, mobility, collaboration, innovation, and the power of our ever-growing networks. Our old, stale business models simply don't fit here. In the words of leadership expert Emmanuel Gobillot, what got you here won't get you there.

It's time to kill a few sacred cows. The stuff that we depend on -- the things that have driven our business models for years -- simply don't fit in the age of transformation. They might just be the weights that will pull us below the surface.

"These are not conventional times," De Cagna said. "We cannot keep thinking in conventional ways."


Think different, people. Forget what you know and be willing to try something new.

In an era when your next-generation employees and clients will "demand different," it might be your only option.


Bill Sheridan