2018 Association Innovation Benchmarking Report

When you search the Harvard Business Review on the key word “Innovation”, you get 18,356 results.  That’s because for businesses innovation is a core competency for survival.
The same is true for associations.  But how focused on innovation are associations?  How do associations define innovation?  And how do they go about innovating?
These are some of the questions that Marketing General Incorporated (MGI) asked association professionals, in conjunction with our client the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), for the 2018 Association Innovation Benchmarking Report.
In this, the second year of the research, association professionals were invited to share their thoughts on a variety of innovation-related issues facing their organizations.   We received 234 unique survey responses.
The findings reveal how associations have developed a clearer concept and practice of innovation. Looking at the response landscape as a whole, innovation tends to play out in one of two distinct ways: associations either embrace innovation completely or ignore it altogether.
Among the associations that embrace innovation, we have found that innovation is increasingly an established practice and is driven at the organization level, not departmentally or individually. Furthermore, more associations are including innovation efforts as part of their annual planning and budgets.
Associations also report challenges with launching an innovation plan, including widespread concern that there are not enough resources to implement the innovation opportunities and an increasing concern that they are not fast enough with new innovations.
Other key findings from this year’s report include:
  • The way associations define innovation.  The two most common interpretations involve creating a product or benefit that provides value to members (75%) and solving a member’s currently unsolved problems (69%).
  • 31% of associations began innovation programs at least five years ago, up from 27% in 2016, thus suggesting a longer-term adherence to innovation policies.
  • Associations are increasingly more likely in 2018 to set formal association-wide goals related to innovation (41% vs. 35%) and to set goals yearly (61% vs. 56%).
  • Many of the top sources for new innovation ideas remained virtually unchanged from previous research, but vendors were more likely to provide new ideas than two years ago (28% vs. 21%).
  • Cross-departmental cooperation is the primary – and quickly increasing – source of manpower for innovation projects (49% vs. 40%).
For a full copy of the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report please download it from the MGI website at www.marketinggeneral.com/knowledge-bank.

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