Sunday, March 2, 2008

"We have always done it that way"

Rotary is rich with stories of impact, fun, and dramatic change. Our biggest block to future success is our inability to see things differently, to challenge conventional wisdom. What would happen if we turned conventional wisdom on its head? How would a new perspective create new success?

For example:
  • "We must have high retention." What if we approached the community relations department of a large company seeking executives to guide an important 2-year project in our club or district? If they stay after that, terrific. If they choose to move on, we thank them for their skills, leadership and impact and wish them well. Most clubs would consider that as a loss of an active, contributing member. The people we serve see that as a shining example of success. The executive walks away with a terrific experience and a fond love for Rotary, even as a non-member. How could we view this as a success?

  • "You have to work your way up the leadership chain." What about Generation X? Folks in this age group are less interested in moving up than they are in moving across - developing broad experience. That's good news for clubs who need leaders with broad perspective. What are your assumptions for membership development and succession and how does it relate to members' interests? How can you appeal to a variety of interests?

  • "Prospective members need to attend 3 meetings." Have you ever asked a new member about their experience during those 3 weeks? What were their goals and expectations versus actual experience? What were the things that they tolerated, that blocked their ability to meet their objectives? Effective clubs do a great job of creating a consistent approach for new member introduction and induction.

  • "Don't survey the members. Asking questions will only emphasize our weaknesses" Who are your "soon-to-be non members" and what blocks them from having a great experience? It is far better to find out in a member survey than an exit survey. Even better than that, interview former members and non-members to find out why they are not in Rotary? If you want to learn something, really listen, don't sell.

  • "Change is hard." What if change was fun? What if you helped make change simpler to understand, more meaningful to the members and simpler to do? If you want to launch a new project, what would be some early wins? No one needs more work. But they might want more fun, more intensity, more connection or even some fun competition. How would you like your change to be?

At your next board meeting or your next project team meeting, notice the conventional wisdom, the rules that worked in the past. And then ask,what if we assumed the opposite? What if we saw it from a non-member point of view? Your club is doing great things for your members and the community. Keep your club strong and relevant by challenging conventional wisdom.

Reprinted from

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