active innovation

Data Fuels Active Innovation

President & CEO


In a growing trend, Association CEO’s and their Board Members are utilizing economic data as important context for their strategic deliberations. Jobs data, Housing StartsInstitute for Supply Management Index (ISM), Oil Prices, Consumer Spending, and U.S. Dollar Performance against other currencies is a more frequent topic at Association Strategic Planning Sessions. Although Strategic Plans cover 3 year windows, Boards encourage their CEO’s to be flexible and to use trend data to meet shifting demands to help their industries. In essence, economic data fuels active innovation at Associations.

More Strategic Conversations

As global and domestic economies endure uneven performance, highly engaged boards who are strategic in focus are leveraging their industry associations to devise growth and operational excellence strategies. Discussions around Economic Data elevates Association Board conversations and the organization becomes the place where new industry solutions are developed. What is clear is that ongoing listening and economic data fuels active innovation at Associations.

Data Driven Active Innovation

active innovation

Brent McClendon, CAE, President and CEO, National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) and his team see their role in global business terms. Economic data is a key part of their strategy, they understand member business challenges and active innovation to support their members is in their DNA. Although a board driven Strategic Plan provided clear focus for NWPCA staff, it’s the entrepreneurial preference of the industry that helps McClendon and his team inspire new products, update existing tools, and facilitate ongoing industry collaboration.


Innovative Advocacy Positions Industries

Are regulators becoming the new Congress? While legislative activity remains on the radar screen, regulatory agencies continue to expand their size and scope. Associations in several instances are serving as collaborators in order to accelerate workplace safety. Skilled Association CEO’s and their Government Affairs Professionals work in partnership with agency staff responsible for rule making and the implementation of new laws.

Member Engagement Creates Association Relevance

Strategic member engagement builds a more durable and flexible framework for Associations in an era of uneven economic performance. Organizations who utilize this framework are better aligned with member and professional outcomes and therefore have greater capacity to shift as market challenges or opportunities arise. Moreover, engaged members will utilize the Association as the place to learn from each other, share knowledge, and develop impactful solutions.

Industry Growth and Operational Excellence

Can Associations be the “convener” for their industries where its supply chain collaborates and develops more far reaching solutions? For McClendon, securing new allies to continually identify new active innovation opportunities is essential. Meetings are positioned as “knowledge sharing” opportunities where executives at companies learn from each other and build solutions to continually advance the Industry.

If member engagement is about driving long term value for the association and the industry, how can staff apply engagement principles in all of their member conversations?  With active listening and continually seeking alignment of its resources with member business and professional outcomes. For example, NWPCA’s propriety software reflects the organizational active innovation mindset and it evolves with ongoing Industry guidance.

Pallet Industry Growth 

Despite lackluster economic performance, industries such as the Wooden Pallet sector are finding new pathways to business growth. What is the Association’s role in helping the Industry achieve its growth? McClendon sees his organization as a conduit of aligned products and services that help contribute to its success.

60% Revenue Growth Reflects Inspiration and Momentum

How can Association’s ward off competitors, accelerate their growth, and remain relevant to their stakeholders regardless of market conditions?  It’s a lot about associations who have Boards that are highly engaged and strategic; focusing on member business outcomes. It’s also about sharing knowledge. Long term, these are the game changing dynamics for NWPCA and for your association.

Data Fuels Active Innovation

As economic complexities continue their run through global markets, how can Association CEO’s arm themselves? For Associations seeking higher levels of member engagement and relevance, CEO’s who employ an active member feedback loop as well as operational and strategic flexibility have increasing opportunities to seek or maintain relevance for their organizations.

ATKearney’s “Twelve key trends will shape the global outlook and operating environment through 2025” provides a basis by which uneven economic performance and disruption will continue far into the future. While the 3 Year Strategic Plan remains essential for Association’s, it’s equally as important to remain agile and flexible enough to meet your member’s ever changing market demands.

How else can Association CEO’s change Board conversations that lead to strategic alignment? With utilization of Economic Data to continually elevate discussions with Board Members. These high level conversations plus economic data fuels active innovation at Associations.

Data Fuels Acts of Innovation




Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at