This text appeared on my phone the other day:

Hi Kristina:

I’ve been waiting for you. I’m Rose, Resident Mischief-Maker at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. As your virtual hook-up, just text me for housekeeping requests, restaurant reservations, room service orders, guest services, and more. Just reply “Rose” and, I’ll show you everything I can do.

Aside from the fact that an imperfectly programmed human missed a digit in Kristina’s phone number and sent the AI on a futile mission, this was a good example of pandemic adaptation. It signals what the future holds not only for hotels but for industry across the board. Rose will only grow smarter and smarter in her pursuit to fill each guests’ quirky individual requests. (I’ll bet she already knows when to say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”)

Although associations are not broadly using AI to provide customer service, I am inspired by the adaptation and creativity I’ve seen over the last eight months. Now that multiple vaccines are on the horizon, an end to the current disruption is in sight.

This is a defining moment. Approaches that were new to many associations like remote work, virtual education, and marketing automation can expand and stimulate the development of additional strategies that are compatible with the digital marketplace. I hope that we’ve reached a tipping point where the innovation that grew out of necessity will continue as the basis for ongoing organizational transformation. 

The idea of business transformation sounds daunting. You might imagine that it’s something like the home renovation from hell—expensive, time-consuming, and filled with unpleasant surprises along the way. Instead, I would compare it to an update that is well-planned, incremental, and leaves you with the house you always thought you deserved. Once you’ve built that dream home, you’ll want to consistently make the repairs and improvements that will keep it in great shape over the years.

.orgSource has been guiding organizations on this journey since long before the pandemic underscored the need for effective digital strategies. Our paper, Achieving Organizational Transformation: Pathways to Success, presents the case for change and the steps toward building an association that can weather disruption and succeed in the digital marketplace. I’d like to offer advice from that document about how to develop the future-oriented, problem-solving mindset that is the most important component of meaningful change.

Eight Simple Steps Toward Business Transformation

1. Address Technology Deficits

Although new attitudes and behaviors play the predominant role in change, technology is a crucial supporting actor. If the pandemic revealed flaws in your infrastructure, now is the time to address those deficits. Assess hardware, software, and staffing capacity to ensure that your systems are robust. Digital platforms should allow the organization to function seamlessly under stressful circumstances and provide data that reflects your membership’s changing characteristics.

The right hardware and software is only the beginning. You need to take those tools beyond simple administrative tasks into the realm of discovery. Detailed reports and comprehensive analytics are not icing on the cake. They should be part of the standard operating procedure. If you’re not able to use business intelligence techniques such as data mining, modeling, and dashboards, consider upgrading or adding systems.

2. Be Obsessed With Data

Explore internal and external data trends.

Use technology to make your organization smarter. Explore both internal and external data trends regularly with your senior management team. When environmental scanning is not associated with a specific project or goal, it may not be a high priority. But if you limit market analysis to special activities such as product development or strategic planning, you will miss significant opportunities to sidestep disruption or jump-start growth.

3. Practice Objective Decision-Making

Become accustomed to using data in frameworks such as scenario planning and decision trees. These strategies can help to facilitate challenging situations and conversations. Gaming out a controversial move will give your team confidence in their ability to successfully execute.

4. Be Guided by the Voice of the Customer  

Don’t forget who should drive every product and service. Use your data and reporting capabilities to develop a deep understanding of members’ wants and needs. Create personas to help you ask the right questions, enhance analytics, and guide decision-making.

5. Eliminate Silos

Discourage compartmentalized thinking and promote the concept of an organic association. Begin building an organization-wide plan to align technology with people, processes, and goals. Give each department responsibilities for environmental scanning and opportunities to use that intelligence to innovate.

6. Create Cross-Functional Teams

Develop collaborative projects and activities and provide incentives for teams to cooperate. Flatten your hierarchy and welcome suggestions from every level of the organization, from the most junior employee on up the ladder.

7. Hire Inquisitive People and Reward Curiosity

Hire inquisitive people.

Identify people who love learning and are not satisfied with easy answers. Recruit them for your team; Then, give them permission to explore new avenues and reward their success.

8. Foster a Culture of Innovation and Experimentation

Innovation is not a luxury. It will be essential to the association community’s future success. Give employees the time, space, and budget to discover new strategies. Get comfortable with calculated risks and use the occasional misstep as an opportunity for learning. Incorporate the concept of the MVP (minimum viable product) into the planning process.

When teams consistently test approaches, evaluate results, and search for improvement, associations evolve. The capacity and will to change create momentum. An innovative culture generates other attributes that are hallmarks of a resilient business such as adaptability and risk tolerance.

Be the Change

I’ve labeled these recommendations “simple steps” because none is intrinsically difficult. The challenge is to consistently apply these principles over time and to model behavior that encourages teams to welcome and embrace ongoing change.

My encounter with Rose the AI reminds me that business transformation, as we see it at .orgSource, is an evolving process. The digital marketplace is a learning machine fueled by information that drives it to consistently perform better and faster. To succeed, we must keep feeding our organizations the knowledge and expertise that will allow them to keep pace.

If your association would like support on the path to business transformation, .orgSource can help. Contact me at