Monday, November 20, 2017

80% Is Good Enough

I used to blog a lot about innovation in the association environment. I used to think a lot about the subject, I helped write a white paper on the subject, helped launch a regional conference focused on it, and have tried to move my association on to a more innovative footing. All that attention and all those experiments were reflected in the posts put up on this blog.

Lately; not so much.

But recently, I and a group of my staff attended the latest iteration of that regional conference I helped launch, and when we got back I asked everyone to share their major takeaways from the presentations they listened to and the discussions they participated in. And a common theme I heard emerge from that conversation was the need to push partially developed products and services out to our members, and then to refine them based on the feedback received from the very users that the products and services are intended for. 80% is good enough, one of my staff members said. And, another added, you probably can't really get to 100% without the interaction with the marketplace.

It reminded me of the topics I used to post frequently about on this blog. As evidenced by posts like "Who's Your Lead User Community?" "We Can Only See the Destination by Moving Towards It," and especially "Putting Something Unfinished Out There," there was a time when I was writing regularly on this subject. And the theme I often returned to was how difficult this was, how there often seemed to be organizational forces aligned against the idea of "putting something unfinished out there." Indeed, in the post by that title, I did the best I could to call those forces out onto the carpet.

How to combat it? Then, as now, my advice is simple. Start small. Find a member who likes to tinker and may want to try something new. Then...

Get together and talk about something that isn't working in the organization and solicit their help in addressing it. Whatever they say, find a way to do it. Not in a big way, not plastered on the front page of your magazine, but in a small way, a guerrilla way, on your own, without help from anyone else. Maybe it's not even a program at that point. Maybe it's just a document--a document with a combination of words on it that no one has ever suggested before.

Then, share it with another member. Get their feedback on it. Adapt and advance the concept. Repeat and keep repeating.

If you do it consistently, you'll realize two things. First, the thing you're working on will never be finished. At some point it will turn into an actual program, but it will always be open to another interaction and another interpretation. And second, that's a good thing. Believe it or not, putting something unfinished out there will become not just less scary, but enjoyable and productive for everyone involved.

80% is good enough. But you're the one who has to bring that 80% to the table.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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