Before we begin, we need to all understand what a “meme” is. The fact that it needs to be explained to some of us kind of illustrates the point of this article.
Author Kerry Maxwell penned this useful explanation for those of us who are of sufficient vintage to need these things explained:
“A meme, or, more precisely, an internet meme, is some kind of idea or piece of information that spreads very rapidly across a large number of internet users. It’s a bit like the online equivalent of an inside joke, a fashionable, attention-grabbing concept that a large number of internet users become aware of. A meme often takes the form of a hyperlink, propagated via email, blogs, social networking, instant messaging and so on, like a kind of virtual Chinese whisper. A meme might be a joke or quotation, a rumour or simple fact, an image, piece of video, or even a particular website — virtually any titbit that can be passed from one person to another via electronic communication. A key facet of a meme is that it is voluntary, a communication which spreads from one place to the next without any kind of compulsion or automation. Memes might stay the same as they transfer from one source to another, but can sometimes ‘evolve’, modified or expanded by each new recipient. They can also fade as fast as they spread, ascending in popularity and then disappearing within a matter of days.”
A popular meme at the moment is “OK Boomer”. Again, at the risk of redundancy, a brief explanation is necessary — Boomers (Baby Boomers) refers to the generation born between 1946 and 1964. “OK Boomer” is a dismissive phrase used to mock Baby Boomers (or essentially anyone older than the person levelling the insult) in a good-natured way for being old-fashioned and out of touch with the realities of the modern world.
For example, if an older person says something like: “Millennials need to stop complaining about never owning a house when they keep spending all their money on avocados. When I was 18, I already had two houses and I ran a successful business.” The appropriate response would be “OK boomer”, which is essentially telling them to shut the hell up.
It’s a variation on a theme which has been a constant between generations since at least 900 years ago when Peter the Hermit wrote:
“The world is passing through troubling times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress.”
Why is any of this relevant to deer, deer hunting or to the Australian Deer Association? Because our cultural institutions, including the ADA, were built by “Boomers” for “Boomers”. The structure which developed though the 1960s, 70s and 80s served us well. The generation that built the ADA wanted to change the world, and they did, for the better.
But the world has changed. While the values that our great institutions were built on are as relevant and important as ever, the operating models — the way we go about carrying on with those values — need to change or there simply is no future.
Associations expert Belinda Moore from Strategic Membership Solutions explained both the challenge and the potential solutions, in her recent essay Association Apocalypse.
“Without immediate and rapid action some associations will find themselves rendered obsolete and replaced by newer, more adaptable competitors. For those organisations that don’t adapt quickly, the coming changes represent an apocalypse they will not be able to navigate.
For associations with the will to move forward, grasping new technologies and opportunities, it will be a chance to transform into something more powerful than ever before as they navigate the following six shifts:
Technological — The integration of machine-thinking and AI into association management software will make the mass personalisation of membership possible. The first associations to successfully implement this will be able to rapidly expand their scope of influence and gain a potentially unassailable position in their industry or profession.
Generational — Associations need to bridge an ever-widening generational divide. They must be able to pivot enough to create an organisation that younger people want to join and/or engage with in sometimes new ways, while also retaining (and not alienating) existing members.
Competition, mergers and consolidations — An influx of new and powerful competitors will disrupt the existing competitive landscape. Associations must deal with these new competitors, as well as the existing range of competitors. They will also need to navigate the impact of mergers and consolidations between associations and amongst the members of their associations.
Tangibility — People are looking to engage with organisations that can deliver results, not rhetoric. Associations must develop measurements of success around productive outcomes (not membership numbers) and be able to demonstrate the tangible difference they make.
Personalisation — The highly personalised nature of the services we experience in our daily life has created the expectation of customisation amongst members. Associations cannot afford not to meet these baseline expectations, which makes the need for associations to segment and personalise their offer and communications to target different groups more vital than ever before.
Community — People are driven by the need to belong and connect. Associations that can harness this desire and become the facilitators of positive connections amongst their community and tribes will have created a powerful competitive advantage for themselves.”
The Australian Deer Association is well progressed in addressing the technological, competition, tangibility and personalisation challenges; the generational challenge is one that we must all meet together — it means that us older members (for the record I’m a Gen X-er) will need to embrace some changes in the way we do things, particularly at branch level, as millennials move into leadership roles and go about making our values and our great mission relevant to new generations.