Of all the experiences involved in writing a book, and there are many—both frustrating and fascinating, what you learn is the most rewarding. Association 4.0™: An Entrepreneurial Approach to Risk, Courage and Transformation, which I wrote with my business partner Kevin Ordonez, is my second adventure as an author. The entrepreneurs we interviewed taught us how some of the most innovative leaders in the association community manage the precarious business of growing a company from start-up to maturity.

The book launch is planned for .orgCommunity’s, February 20 Innovation Summit, in Schaumburg, IL. Participants at the event will have the opportunity to download a complimentary copy!

We began this project with the idea that associations could benefit from a new approach. We were seeing an increasing number of organizations struggling with technology goals because they didn’t have the experience needed for implementation. But we also came to realize that the challenges were more closely tied to attitudes and behavior than to skills. These organizations needed to grow but were stunted by the status quo. They had been conducting business as usual for many years. Learning to manage change was as difficult and uncomfortable as trying to become a tennis pro by reading a book.

Unfortunately, change is no longer optional. (It probably never was.) But in a galaxy long ago and far away, the marketplace was more forgiving. Industry 4.0, the phenomenon created by the power of digital invention, has made continuous adaptation mandatory for any business that seeks to remain relevant.

Our goal was to provide association leaders with real-life examples of colleagues who have become experts at an unpredictable game by mastering:

  • The agility to return the tough shots
  • The foresight to anticipate where the next ball will land
  • And, the focus to concentrate on the outcome in spite of every distraction

Our first book, Association 4.0—Positioning for Success in an Era of Disruption, was conceived when we began asking leaders in our network about their strategies for navigating this new environment. We discovered that the most successful executives are experimenting and iterating to mitigate risk, developing hubs of innovation within their organizations and using the latest technology to gain a deep understanding about their members’ needs. In other words, they are acting like entrepreneurs. This book explores that concept and a mindset that we believe is well suited to the coming decade.

The interviews are filled with advice, inspiration and practical examples for any professional who wants to lead with innovation and creativity and to build a nimble organization. And, just a little friendly advice here, an ongoing interest in refreshing your management style and optimizing organizational culture, is a great way to ensure that your talent continues to live up to your title.

Whether it was how a product evolved over time or how a company grew from an audacious idea to a profitable business, I loved hearing these origin stories. The plots were always fascinating and the ideas thought-provoking. These are just a few of the vignettes that made me pause to consider how an approach or idea could benefit me and my clients:

Hugh Lee

Hugh Lee, Co-Founder and Owner, Fusion Productions on the value of foresight, risk and adaptability.

 “When we started the company, we had over $1 million worth of business doing slides. Forty years ago, that was worth something, but I was reading about how these things called personal computers and laptops were going to change the industry. I sat down with the staff and told them we had to be out of the slide business within the next 18 months. . . You take a lot of risks, and you’re never really positive that you’re right. But you have to believe in yourself. Being an entrepreneur is about having the passion and nerves to endure the failures and leverage the opportunities without thinking about the cost.”

Arianna Rehak

Arianna Rehak, Co-Founder and CEO, Matchbox Virtual Media, on the role of feedback and intellectual curiosity.

“I have a habit of contacting at least five respected colleagues and friends who come from different backgrounds to give feedback on any idea. That strategy means that I can consider a question from several unique perspectives. I like to constantly turn stones over to see if a project is worth pursuing. The people in my close circle get frequent emails from me. That’s part of who I am. The impact of that constant feedback is extremely energizing. It’s also an early way to identify when an idea isn’t worth implementing.”

Charlie Judy

Charlie Judy, Founder, Chief People Officer, Intelligent Medical Objects on the importance of cultural fit.

“You have to understand the characteristics of work in your culture. That specific information allows employers to hire people who are the right fit for their community, and it can help prospective employees avoid situations where they will not thrive. For example, if being a decision-maker is a non-negotiable for you, and you’re considering a job where decisions are only made by committees; then I don’t care how much you like the breakroom, the people on your team or your career path, you will not do your best work. That’s a simplified example, but it’s the kind of idea that woke me up.”

Our contributors share many common traits. They are all inveterate problem-solvers who view their industries like some wonderful but incredibly complex puzzle that they’ll never complete. They’ve each found ways to make risk that friend they love to hate. But above all, for this group business as usual is never an option. I hope their stories will inspire readers to begin looking far beyond the status quo and to bring that spirit of transformation to their own professional challenges.