Innovation & CE: Who Says Associations are not Creative?

Before I started working with professional associations, I assumed they were some of the most conservative organizations on earth. Since then, I have learned that many of the people who work for those organizations are quite creative. The continuing education (CE) teams in particular know that innovation is required to not only keep member programs fresh, but to turn out the best educational content possible. The problem is they often run into roadblocks to creativity, in the form of boards or history—the “that’s the way it has always been done” influences.

The people who get in the way of creativity don’t mean to have a negative effect on CE programs, just the opposite.  The problem is they don’t work in the field every day, so they might not immediately recognize the good ideas and remove the roadblocks to innovative programming that will ultimately keep members happy—the ultimate goal of the organization and what seasoned managers know how to do best.

What I do know is that the organizations that encourage creativity in their educational programming are very successful. The other thing I’ve noticed is that it’s give and take that keeps creativity in the mix—management that listens and is willing to try something different, and teams members who are willing to take the time to communicate and stand up for the ideas they really believe in.

So, in the interest of creativity, I leave you with a few ideas from colleagues who have served as CE directors:

  • Rather than present a topic, debate it.  Select speakers with varying viewpoints, allow participants to provide feedback.
  • Frame issues for discussion with vignettes.  Identify the actors in your association and let them have some fun.
  • Provide the history of a topic. The evolution will not only provide context, but could make the content more memorable.
  • Use a “flipped” classroom.
  • Create the program as a competition or a game.  For example: “Ethics and Professionalism” jeopardy.
  • Schedule the educational event at an unusual venue:  a sporting event, museum, outdoors. Use the surroundings to drive home your points.

Here’s to more creativity in 2013. Happy New Year!