The Power of Prototyping Problems at your Association

Associations are often behind when it comes to understanding how to solve challenges they’re facing. To put it bluntly, problem identification within associations is often reactive, rather than proactive and this, in-and-of itself is a much deeper problem internally within associations. Associations need to become proactive in their problem solving approach, embracing problems, rather than sitting and waiting until the last possible moment to react. Associations need to begin embracing problems, and more frequently!

Why to Prototype your Problem

Associations are often behind when it comes to understanding how to solve challenges they’re facing. To put it bluntly, problem identification within associations is often reactive rather than proactive. This alone is a much deeper problem internally within associations. Associations need to become proactive in their problem solving approach, rather than sitting and waiting until the last possible moment to react. Associations need to begin embracing problems, and more frequently!

This is the core value of design thinking. Prototyping your problem allows your team to gain insights into ways your association can improve that may identify larger overarching challenges built in and around the initial problem you’re trying to solve. Developing a prototype will help your association to think through your problem, mapping out a potential structured approach to your solution.

Engage your employees in the problem solving process.  

Collectively work as a team to work through all of the potential causal attributes. The first few steps in solving your problem means taking an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Employees need to have a say at the table. In fact, companies with an engaged workforce improve operating income by 19%, while companies with low employee engagement results saw operating income decline by 32%. People at your association play a huge role in solving the challenges and problems your association is facing and will face in the future.

Going through the process of problem solving as a team, rather than through management, allows your team to feel a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment to working on the solution. Your team’s involvement during the problem solving process is vital to successfully implementing the solution. Your team, at the end of the day, are the people actively working with members. If you have their involvement, where they’ve been engaged in the problem solving process, they’re more likely to continue to implement a diversified team’s views in the next problem they face.

How to Prototype your Problem

Step 1. Make data-driven decisions 

To start, look into your data. If the problem you are trying to solve is declining membership, identify who were the members who renewed, what products and services they are using? Additionally, look into who did not renew their membership, what products and services were they engaged with the year before?

Develop an understanding of deep engagement patterns among your members to identify member behavior. Then identify where the causal attribute is that has caused the problem you’re trying to solve.

Step 2. Contextualize your core values, members, and mission

When you’re making self-improvements, you need to look inward to identify what your ethics are, where you stand on your values, and what you want and need to become a better person. Take the same approach with your team when prototyping your problem. What is it that sets you apart? What real value do your members receive from your association? What is the purpose of your association and how can your values and mission benefit the member?

Step 3. Map out solutions

No idea is a bad idea. Identify how your team can resolve the problem you’re facing. If it’s declining membership renewals, identify if the majority of those who did not renew their membership over 60 years old? If so, maybe you don’t need to develop a solution based on the members who did not renew. Maybe instead your focus as an association needs to be toward recruiting new professionals, or students, securing them as members as they transition from students to young professionals. Based on the first two steps you can begin brainstorming ideas among your team to identify the solutions to the true challenges your associations are facing.

Nothing is eternal.

Understand that products, services, and your team’s effectiveness will increase and then plateau. Not everything is forever. You have to expect change, and more importantly understand that analytics naturally tell a story of gradual incline, and then begin to progressively decline. Learn to embrace this pattern and use it to your advantage. By identifying when a product or service has plateaued before the decline, your team can begin working through potential solutions to solve a potential problem before it’s even identified as an issue.

Problems do not mean failure. A problem means you have an opportunity to improve. Whether that be a product, process or your team cohesion, as a problem-solving unit, start by implementing an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving problems internally at your association. The more frequently your team works together, the more agile they can become as problem solvers. After you changed the way your team solves problems, they’ll begin getting excited when a problem is presented. This is where you can begin creating efficiencies, becoming a proactive association instead of a slow-to-react association.

With your staff’s revised processes to work agile, and easily understand the challenges your association is facing, your staff will begin acting to improve operations and increase member retention, all attributed to their deeper engagement and your association’s shifted culture to begin embracing problems before they arise.


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