Incubation Starts with Collaboration

By Artesha Moore, FASAE, CAE

Artesha Moore and staff

Incubate. When we came up with the theme for this year’s Holiday Showcase, we were all abuzz about what it could mean for our members. We talked about testing new ideas, challenging assumptions, providing resources and networking and opportunities.

And there it was: Incubate.

With a background in technology, the idea of an incubator is both familiar and appealing to me. A tech incubator is a way for bright minds to work together to turn ideas into reality. That’s exactly what we aim to do at Holiday Showcase and within Association Forum year-round.

To us, members are the startup—buzzing with ideas and possibilities. Association Forum is your incubator. We are here to connect you to experts, resources, mentorship, and all the support you need to achieve your professional goals.

This is why we’ve homed in on three themes to guide our content: New Power Leadership, Tomorrow is Now, and Intrapreneurship. These themes are intrinsic to startup culture and the skills needed to incubate new ideas. We’ve woven them into our content this past year—in this magazine, in our webinars, and in our live learning. Holiday Showcase offers sessions and activations on the Exhibit Hall featuring each of these themes. But more than that, the entire concept behind Holiday Showcase Incubate represents a culmination of the themes at work.

As CEO, I think a lot about my role in this ecosystem. I get to lead this organization, but I’m also a peer to members. We share an industry. As for incubating ideas, I recently read an article written by Akhilendra Rai on LinkedIn titled “The Vital Role of an Incubation Manager in Building a Strong Startup Ecosystem.” Rai is an entrepreneur and advisor to Smart Cities Incubation Centre. In this article, he lists seven tips for an incubation manager. I’ll speak to two that resonated with me:

Foster a collaborative environment.

This tip strikes at the heart of New Power Leadership. New power leaders don’t depend on hierarchies to manage, but rather build collaborative teams. Problem solving, troubleshooting, and ideation are all accelerated by collaboration. What’s more, intrapreneurship can only thrive in a safe, collaborative environment. This includes creating psychological safety—a place where staff are comfortable challenging assumptions (see page 22 for more on that) and don’t fear failure.

In many ways, fostering a collaborative environment is the entire job. It’s your job too. What are we as membership organizations if we aren’t fostering collaboration? It’s core to our purpose and core to the incubation of ideas.

Continuously learn and adapt.

There are few things I enjoy in life more than learning. Just ask my staff who receive a steady stream of article links and book suggestions from me.  Yet, consuming information isn’t enough to learn and adapt. I find that being in a room with smart people who have knowledge and experience different from my own is the best way to learn. Rai writes that “this requires you to be open to feedback and willing to experiment with new approaches.” 

I strive for that type of openness. I believe this requires leaning on a wide circle of peers, mentors, and experts. Luckily, Association Forum is here to help you establish your circle. As a leader, an innovator, a changemaker, you can’t be rigid. You can’t be certain, and you can’t be comfortable.

Change is always an experiment. We’ve made changes to this year’s Holiday Showcase program in the name of experimenting with a new format and deepening the purpose of the meeting. I am leading broad structural changes at Association Forum to bring our new business strategy and value proposition for association professionals at all career stages to life. It’s all an experiment. Like tech incubators, we are learning, adapting, and sharing that knowledge with our community in hopes that we will all thrive in the future. We learn, we adapt, and we grow. 

About the Author

Artesha Moore is president & CEO of Association Forum. She is a respected thought leader within the association management community with more than 20 years of experience. Throughout her career, she has helped associations set and exceed aggressive membership and volunteer engagement goals. Using a hands-on approach, she works hard to align people and technology in innovative ways using industry best practices to bring about positive change within the association and the community. Importantly, she spends time mentoring the next generation of leaders by pushing them to find their own solutions to common and uncommon problems.

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