To Unleash the Power of AI, Embrace a Digital Mindset

Digital leadership is a new paradigm that calls for a change in behaviors, attitudes, and skills, along with an open mind.

By Sherry Budziak

digital mindset

Digital transformation has become a cliché. People use the term to describe everything from configuring a new AMS to redesigning a website. Many tech initiatives comfortably fit under that umbrella. However, imagining that digital transformation is limited to installing new systems misses the point—by miles.

“Transformation” is the important part of the equation. To use powerful tools effectively, your mindset must match the moment.

Digital leadership is a new paradigm that calls for a change in behaviors, attitudes, and skills, along with an open mind. In a presentation at Association Forum’s Holiday Showcase, David Martin, CEO and Executive Vice President at the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and I discussed how attitude equals advantage in leveraging technology for success in fast-paced markets.

Rethink Your Style

The pandemic put technology on our radar, but the seeds of disruption were planted long before the virus demanded our attention. The boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds have been disappearing for some time. This phenomenon is creating changes that are significant in manufacturing and workplace operations – defining  a new era. Industry 4.0., or the technology revolution, landed us knee-deep in the digital future before we learned to swim.

Introducing generative AI into this mix throws gasoline on the fire. Change is the hallmark of this volatile environment. As familiar industries become obsolete, new, unexpected configurations emerge.

Associations are feeling the impact of this instability. The internet and social media have opened the door to for-profit competition, threatening revenue from membership, professional development, meetings, and other previously protected sources.

Technology offers tools to address many of these challenges—if used to understand and meet current member needs. This expectation means breaking free from analog patterns and learning to deliver products and services as seamlessly as online giants like Amazon and Netflix. For small associations, this may seem like a hopelessly tall order. In fact, it’s more a leap of creativity than of resources.

Improve Today

David and his organization were early adopters of this new mindset. SCCM began its digital transformation over fifteen years ago. Even then, they realized that their relationship with technology was an ongoing journey.

“Going 100 percent digital gave us a 360-degree view of our constituents,” David noted. “SCCM can focus investment in its most important customers, see patterns in demographics, and respond with changes in pricing or adjustments in strategies.

“The data results in business intelligence that better meets member needs. It offers innovative ways of thinking about customers that drive revenue growth in the short term and create insight into future behaviors and product development in the long term.”

Predict Tomorrow

Data is the currency of every digital initiative. The better you know how to use it the bigger the return. Students of data look at the past to understand the present and scrutinize recent activities to recognize emerging patterns and trends. With the advent of AI, data can also predict future behavior.

AI can help identify misalignments with current members and uncover opportunities to re-engage previous constituents. It can also shine a light on undiscovered audiences and possibilities for growth.

“At SCCM, we have ventured into areas such as quality improvement collaborations, basic research initiatives, data registries, and others,” David observed. “They are all new and developing, but hold the promise that associations can do more than just their traditional activities.”

AI could similarly expand your group’s reach. Here are some activities that can be augmented with AI apps and systems:

  • Automated, targeted, and personalized marketing and outreach 
  • Revenue prediction and cash flow management
  • Event management and networking
  • Predictive analytics for strategic decision-making, forecasting market trends, identifying member needs, and scenario planning
  • Chatbots for customer care
  • Content creation and curation, including social posts, presentation development, and sessions descriptions, using large language models like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing
  • Improved writing skills with apps like Grammarly and ProWritingAID
  • Voice recognition, translation, and transcription
  • Contract Management

Digital business revolves around the use of automation and anticipation to stay a beat ahead of the competition. But even the best predictive analytics and MarCom tools need a human to make them meaningful. Leaders must ask the right questions and provide the vision to set initiatives in motion.

Be a Challenger

When intellect and ingenuity power technology, you have the ingredients for success. Growing these human skills requires attention, patience, and commitment. Sometimes it means a seismic cultural shift. Teams need to become resilient and able to quickly adapt to change.

Real digital transformation occurs when people have the agency to experiment, be creative, and reach beyond their current skill sets. These strategies support helping your staff to make that leap.

  • Adopt the challenger mindset: Empower employees to question the status quo, be curious, develop data-driven solutions, and embrace innovation.
  • Empower change agents: Identify and support employees with the zeal to drive organizational transformation.
  • Nurture talent: Recruit and cultivate staffers with digital and human skills.
  • Promote continuous learning: Reward curiosity, creativity, and professional development.
  • Be Proactive: Anticipate trends and create agile teams that collaborate across the organization.
  • Bridge tradition and technology: Blend existing strengths with new capabilities.

As you expand perspectives and develop adaptive behavior, remember that trust will always be your most valuable resource. Preserve member confidence by safeguarding their data and intellectual property. Move forward boldly but with caution, never leaving your constituents behind.

Use AI and innovation to make your organization transparent and transformative. Listen to your audience. Pay attention to what they do and what they say. Employ every digital and human advantage to move their interests forward. This strategy creates leaders who thrive in the face of relentless reinvention.

About the Author

Sherry Budziak is the founder and CEO of .orgSource. She has more than 30 years of experience in leadership and executive consulting in the association space. In 2010, she was awarded Association Forum's John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award.

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