Thursday, March 17, 2016

What the future holds for Professional Societies and other humanistic organizations in general


I want to congratulate ASQ Chief Operating Officer Shontra Powell for (finally!) a thought provoking discussion topic on the ASQ blog “A View from the Q.”  This blog has steadily regressed since its initial role as a personal voice of the ASQ Chief Executive.  There have been a number of factors that have caused this regression.  I hope the blog is re-energized by Ms. Powell’s interest in speaking directly to the members using this forum.

I find the future of professional societies and organizations a more interesting topic than the one currently being readied for the discussion roundtable.  I am fortunate that currently serving as an ASQ section chair we have re-energized the quality base locally.  Through small efforts we have taken an organization of 100 members 18 months ago to one that has over 130 members.  What have we done?  Spruced up the website, have less frequent but more meaningful section meetings, and involved the largest local business as part of running the section.   We have added much more creativity to our leadership group and made running the section fun.   I like to think we are responding to a changing world where members do not want their chosen professional society to be a burden to their life.

 Ms. Powell discusses in her blog her view of what that less burden would look like.  It is extremely interesting as it focuses more on social media and less on face to face interaction.  I would argue that there needs to be a balance with both.  As human beings we are naturally a social creature.  Yes, in the past 10 years we have seen a plethora of new social avenues being made available to us.  Yet, I see these avenues become less and less “social” in that these avenues are often more for self-advertisement rather than actual discourse and sharing of knowledge.  Yes, as human beings we need a little ego stroking to maintain self-worth.  But there is a point where it becomes mere annoyance.  At that point these social media platforms actually drive people away rather than enhance social interaction.

There is still that need to connect to people on a personal level.  Yes, I agree that conferences and large gatherings are becoming more burdensome and cost prohibitive as they become larger and long distance travel becomes more a personal affront. But these gatherings are still important for our well-being.  We NEED that social interaction and with that interaction there is a derived benefit that cannot be captured by a financial return on investment.  Sometimes we do it because it is the right thing to do.  We need that rush on meeting that subject matter expert that stirs that inner sense of accomplishment.

Which, I believe, Ms. Powell’s vision actually drives the opposite expected behavior.  Our quality “stars” are becoming fewer and far between.  There really is no platform to grow the next dimension of quality.  The new ASQ structure is insulating the executive leadership from this discourse rather than encouraging it.  Where is that upcoming opportunity for the next generation quality superstar to share their light and draw the new converts to quality?
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