Within the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of things happening around me that have made me wonder about the validity of professional associations of sorts, and if we really need them.
In general, I think the answer is “yes”, but mostly, I have to wonder if the add-on to that is “but for how long?”.
I’m not going to pretend that organizations like the IAI (full disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors) and IxDA haven’t helped me, personally, make many of the social and professional connections that I have today. But, that was before.
Before all this social network stuff sort of just asploded in our faces and made everything so intimate, public and NOW NOW NOW!!
I’m grateful for these organizations, actually, as long as they work.
So, to answer my questions, I’d say the answer on both parts is: YES
But the time is critical for them, I fear.
BUT… I think both need to evolve a little in order to find the right way to keep it all under the same roof. There’s no problem with people owning initiatives, and it’s awesome that people can, over the course of a holiday weekend (in the US, of course) crank out 110% awesome. The world wants things RIGHT NOW, and that makes waiting even more difficult than Tom Petty ever imagined. Organizations love to talk about and hate their red tape and people love to talk about and love/hate their organizations response times and excuses of the red tape.
It kind of stinks. But, it’s also a reality. There’s got to be a way to make things happen and get organizations and “their people” all engaged, enabled and empowered to “get stuff done” so they can meet in the middle. There’s got to be some sort of an open framework we can create where people start running as fast as they can and as fast as they want with great (or not great, half-cocked, hair-brained) ideas and make them work for both in a way where both reap the rewards.
I’ve watched as people have identified a number of reasons why events should be near them (and sadly, watched while even less than Pareto would be happy with identified themselves as those willing to take part in the preparation and organization of such things), griped and/or yelled and/or bullied about certain attitudes and approaches to different locations and even, I’m sad to say, as people have thrown up their arms and politely asked, urgently requested and all-out yelled and hollered their requests for assistance.
Unfortunately, I watched those requests get sent, and then watched forward motion get made without support.
In fact, over the course of a holiday weekend in the United States, I watched Steve Baty take his half-baked “UX Book Club” idea and start to bake the hell out of it with his peers–many he’s never met, and some he may never meet in his life. Will Evans and Andrew Boyd jumped-in to help, without any real call for support and they helped inject more excitement and energy into the project.
(Admittedly, I got involved, thumb-tapped away on my iPhone as furiously as I possibly could and tried to keep up from the remote reaches of the inner-midwest USA)
They found new ideas from their existing ideas.
They created new ideas–blew them up to bigger than better than any one of them had dreamed-up before.
Mountains were made out of idea molehills, and frankly the whole world looked a helluva lot better from a “wow, that’d be really kick @$$” perspective.
They used the hell out of the back-channel to get people active, excited and to make sure they were missing as few opportunities as possible while engaging as many people who could help them.
They did this without the assistance of associations, organizations, fax machines, the USPS or DHL delivery service. The did this without worrying about whether or not the location was one that suited everyone.
They did this because they love what they do, they love being active and they have heart, soul and no real spare time to donate to their communities, but they figure they can give up an extra hour of sleep a night to make something worthwhile.
How come so few people want so much but can’t come up with the same type of inertia–if I tried to stop Steve right now, he’d plow through me like a Mack truck going over a puddle. This thing is happening!
And it’s awesome.
But “they” own it. That is, there is no owner beyond this collective of unorganized people who decided that their locations could read books once a month.
They DO need the support of organizations–organizations can help them with (perceived?) purchasing power, greater reach, and the potential for more opportunities and growth beyond these local book clubs.
I mean, if someone has the gusto to pick up a book and read once a month, maybe they also want to sit down once a month and watch a presentation on <something> or they want to grab a beer with others and talk about <something> or they want to schedule their own “camp” type of thing.
They DO need organizations. As Marc Andreesen says (courtesy of Christina Wodtke), “Organizations are GREAT distribution channels.” (okay, so Christina clarified this below, but I think it still stands)
Hell, they’re a great place for like-minded people to get together and change the world, rattle the status quo and shake the foundation of just about anything they set their minds to.
Organizations DO need them-these people are THEIR leaders of TODAY and TOMORROW.
One can do without the other, however. One can create the other, however.
One SHOULD inspire, engage and activate the other.
My point is that I think a lot of us get frustrated–I know I have, and I do–and we forget that these things all really do have connecting points and dependencies.
Most of us work in the User Experience space (if you’re reading this blog, at least I think you are)–you/we should all be connecting these boxes and we should all be wanting to solve these problems. We should be taking advantage of this “whatever-point-oh” web/world that we’re in and FIND NEW WAYS to be excited and energized and CREATE SOMETHING BETTER.
Because if we don’t, someone else will.
In the upcoming weeks–nay, days, I will be sharing my initiatives for 2009 as a member of the Board of Directors of the Information Architecture Institute. None of these are impossible to achieve and all of them are valuable and will be worth your time if you choose to participate and/or lead these initiatives with me.
I can’t do it alone, and I want your help.
And you can make my ideas better. More awesome. More YOU. Oh. My. God. Think of how cool that is to see a seed turn into a tree right in front of your eyes and/or from the work of your own hands!
There are so many opportunities for us–from having fun to getting really dorky-technical.
It’s there. If someone hasn’t thought of it–and even if they have–pick up the idea torch and give it a try.
There are big things to be accomplished in 2009, and there are all types of leaders needed–in organizations and in the world at large. Organizations always need more leaders and volunteers and will present you with opportunities you’d never dreamt of. If an organization cannot or will not support you, challenge them–better yet, challenge yourself–and start building something great, and present it to them.
Don’t just BE the change you want to see…
CREATE the change you want to see.