Innovation is not about knowing the answer. It’s about asking the right question.

Several years ago I had a coworker who told the boss, in what she thought was a well-meaning way, when you ask the employees questions, it gives the impression you don’t know the answer. To her questions meant weakness.

Newsflash: The days of mindless following are gone.

To be an effective leader of your association you must be willing to ask members (yourself, your staff, your mentor, your protégé, your barber and anyone else who’s willing to talk it out) what’s working and what’s not.

Personal preferences and customized membership experiences are expectations today not nice benefits.

Innovation occurs when you admit you don’t have all the answers. Innovative ideas can come from:

  • Thinking creatively about a problem
  • Looking at how another industry handles a similar problem
  • Asking a stranger, or someone with a fresh set of eyes, for his opinion
  • A peer network or mentor
  • A conference session
  • A staff member/employee with terrible advice

There is no right answer on where to get your next innovative idea.

But there certainly is wrong one.

Innovation Doesn’t Flourish in the Can’t Camp

If you surround yourself with people who think what you’re doing is good enough and that asking question makes you look weak, you’ll never get to where you need to in order to lead an innovative association.

Most session leaders will tell you providing value and engaging members is the way you’ll improve retention and drive membership. I’ve written about how you must provide something members can’t get elsewhere and with the advent of LinkedIn Groups, networking is no longer enough.

The Dating Game

This week American Mensa a chapter of Mensa International, the High IQ Society, launched a dating site in conjunction with Match.com, entitled Mensa Match.

Now that’s innovative!

Mensa knows its members struggle with finding people on their intellectual level. That’s part of the goal behind the 67-year-old association in the first place, but they took it past that and are now helping their intellectually elite members find love.

Innovative ideas can come in any size. They can be a solution for a current inefficiency or a bold idea aimed at making members happier and giving them something unique.

While your association may not be willing to take on members’ personal lives, meeting your members’ needs in a unique way is a perfect way to endear yourself to them and shine as an innovative membership organization.