A ‘thrivability manifesto’ — 6 steps to future success

We already know how to think like a futurist. Now it’s time to act like one.

Jeff De Cagna wants to show us how.

Jeff is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation and a huge advocate for innovation and transformation among associations. He presented a “Thrivability Manifesto” for associations at the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting, but the document easily applies to any organization struggling to outrun the pace of change.

First, let’s define our terms. According to De Cagna, thrivability is about building 21st century organizations, minimizing resistance and risk, and preparing for transformation. “It’s not enough to put a new coat of paint on the outside of our homes,” he said. “It’s time to rewire the inside of our organizations.”

Doing that involves six key steps, outlined in detail in De Cagna’s “Manifesto.”

1. Stop listening to the noise of the past and start listening to the signals of the future.
“Orthodox beliefs represent the noise of the past. Quit listening to them,” De Cagna said. “Our imperative is to build resilience for growth.”

2. Stop enabling board underperformance. Start demanding board excellence.
Again, De Cagna is addressing non-for-profit organizations here, but this notion applies to us all. Simply replace “boards” with “leadership.” “We haven’t done enough good work to prepare our boards to govern a 21st-century organization,” he said. “We must convince our leaders that they are stewards of the organization.”

3. Stop thinking analog in a digital world.
“We must think differently about our resources for investment,” De Cagna said. “What will add value going forward?” Here’s a hint: It’s not the same stuff we did yesterday.

4. Start putting our stakeholders first, rather than membership numbers.
Again, De Cagna is speaking to associations here, but you can read between the lines. Success today isn’t about how many units you sell, it’s about how many problems you solve. Seth Godin might put it this way: Don’t build a product and look for customers. Flip it — look for customers, then build their product.

5. Start building the future around learning. Stop believing we know enough.
De Cagna puts it this way: How rapidly can we learn new skills? Equally important: How rapidly can we un-learn old, outdated ones?

6. Harness the power of networks and stop erecting barriers to keep people out.
It’s time to build relationships that are built around collaboration— and realize that these might be with people who aren’t our clients.

According to De Cagna, our future-focused conversations must start with these three questions:

  1. What will it take for your organization to thrive over the next decade and beyond?
  2. What will your stakeholders need to thrive over the next decade and beyond?
  3. Why should your stakeholders want a relationship with your organization over the next decade and beyond?

These are difficult questions to answer, and difficult conversations to start. But the sooner we start them, the better off we’ll be.

De Cagna channeled politician and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan for the kicker: “For all of its uncertainty,” he said, “we cannot flee the future.”

Quit running. Start working.

Read De Cagna’s Thrivability Manifesto in its entirety here.


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