by: James Young

Value Creation in Associations

We create new value in the product community. This process can easily (and mistakenly) be reduced to elaborate project planning. 

Remember, a product community is a product development learning community designed specifically for associations. For us, products are the things we do to attract, connect, and engage our membership. 

It is the value we create. 

Value creation may be a clever phrase, but it’s synonymous with product development, which (when properly designed and successfully executed) is synonymous with meaningful, longitudinal connection

Most associations do similar things: 

  1. Annual events to drive engagement 
  2. A steady stream of content or news (via a magazine, journal, podcast, or newsletter)
  3. Learning or professional development experiences to keep your members prepared for an increasingly competitive world of work. 
  4. Membership

How can you leverage this standard fare into new and exciting value for members? 

In part, it’s building and sustaining a culture of innovation. 

A Culture of Collaborative Product Development

In the world of product development, this means getting out of our lanes, getting comfortable with ambiguity, and meeting the member where the member is. 

Culture is one of six association product competencies. The others are vision, customer, design + build, go to market, and performance. This week, we address culture. In the coming weeks, we’ll dive deeper into the other competencies. 

Creating a culture of collaborative product development is critical because building new things that people love:

  1. Is hard.
  2. Requires focus. 
  3. Requires diverse perspectives. 
  4. Requires support + and hard truths (especially about the whether the market wants and is willing to pay for what you’re building)
  5. Enhances the odds for success. 

Culture can be tricky. It can be difficult to accurately diagnose and can be tough to change. 

Good ideas can be crushed by a dysfunctional organizational culture, negative team vibe, or a critical mass of staff who resist change. 

The product community puts healthy culture at its center. Building new things is a team sport. 

A healthy culture focuses on people. It is purposeful, team-based, and based in meaningful relationships. 

A healthy culture helps create the conditions that result in peak performance and successful outcomes. 

By partaking in the product community, participants shape culture by learning how to create new products that deliver new value in the context of other peer learners. Developing products in a highly-charged creative environment sparks momentum. 

The ideal traits of a participant was covered in a previous post

A culture of optimism and possibility comes from high impact collaborative work. It also comes from being ready to wrestle with creating new value in an association operating environment that often resists it. 

Culture Transfer

In addition to shaping culture within the product community, participants will bring these practices and tools back to their association. 

A product development culture can drive innovation by imprinting on your association organizational culture in far-reaching ways, namely through potential new revenue sources and a new capacity for cross-functional innovation. 

Learning to create new value needs to be intentional and participatory.

Doing so, will enhance a high impact culture in which there is shared ownership and accountability. 

An important outcome of a product community is to develop a culture that helps propel the association’s growth aspirations in both authentic and financial ways. 

A product community has greater potential for success in a supportive culture that, over time, informs and guides the values and behaviors of the wider association’s direction. 

Product communities don’t work or can’t be successful in isolation. Aligning an association’s culture with the product community takes time, patience, buy-in, hard work, commitment, and broad-based participation. 

When one participates in the product community, they create new products in a peer environment that mirrors the traits of a healthy culture. 

Yes, a healthy culture is not easy to achieve, but the product community is an exciting rallying point designed to create momentum that drives focused growth. 

About the Author

James Young is founder and chief learning officer of the Product Community®. Jim is an engaging trainer and leading thinker in the worlds of associations, learning communities, and product development. Prior to starting the Product Community®, Jim served as Chief Learning Officer at both the American College of Chest Physicians and the Society of College and University Planning.