You know you need to innovate. Between the technology, the differences in generations, and growing membership demands, you know your association must change, but how do you become more risk tolerant and less afraid of failure?

Establish a Safety Zone

Where are you willing to take risks? Where does it make sense and where do you get the biggest return? Asking these questions will help you better understand what you’re willing to change and what you aren’t.

The things you’re willing to change, fall into the safety zone, so go ahead and start brainstorming on ways to make them better. They’ll become your springboard to bigger challenges.

Once you know what you’re not willing to let go of, ask yourself why. Tradition? Revenue fears? Political ramifications? Are they real concerns or just a desire to do what’s easiest? These items can be tackled after you build momentum and confidence in your abilities to innovate.

Give it a Deadline

Innovation is not merely an innovative idea, although it will start out that way. To achieve successful innovation, you must have implementation (along with the idea). Successful implementation must be done on a schedule and given parameters for successful measurement. Take your idea, map out its implementation schedule, assign it a measure for success, and get it going. Then follow up, after the time has elapsed, to measure its success and talk about what worked.

Celebrate the Little Things

When trying to embrace innovation, take time to celebrate the little victories, maybe it’s making a change to a long-standing event, maybe it’s the schedule with which you send out renewals. Whatever idea you had, that you implemented – even if the risk was minor – celebrate its success. These smaller and faster experiments will help you feel more confident to take on larger, game-changing ideas.

Get Others Excited

An innovative idea needs an incubator and a culture that supports it. Innovative ideas are fragile things. Your association will have difficulty with innovation until it’s supported by the staff, board, and lastly, the members. Surround yourself with positive, energetic, creative people. If you can’t, seek out the nay-sayers’ opinions often – not as a validation of your own – but distinctly asking for their thoughts on the future of your organization.

Use language to your advantage. Don’t use overly encompassing or judgmental terms like “unsuccessful.” Try measuring words like it “didn’t meet our revenue projections.” After all, while the idea may not have been what you expected, the innovation was worthwhile because it placed you one step closer to finding what will be successful. Like Thomas Edison said, “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”