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Shaun Illingworth

Shaun Illingworth

Akendi Alumnus

Big Innovation for Associations

Innovative organizations are risk-taking by nature. And some organizations are simply more apt to take risks.

Many ‘Innovator of the Year’ lists contain mostly product-focused organizations.  Most are really big business – engineering and/or science heavy – with big projects, big budgets and big risks! Associations are not usually on that list, but associations can innovate in big ways too. They too can have big ideas with big impact.

The stereotypical norm for associations consist heavily of due diligence and long, drawn-out processes with multiple stakeholders. In most cases this is to ensure proper committee participation, follow any legal procedures, and generate buy-in from across the membership – understandable. But what if you had such a deep and thorough understanding of your members needs that you were able to provide what they needed before they asked for it?

Understanding the member may lead an association to offer non-traditional services, a novel and unique use of technology to broadcast events, or even start a strategic relationship with a complimentary body.

Innovation in associations starts (and ends) with people. Whether it be evolution or revolution, new ideas need to fit within the context of the user and by focusing uniquely on your target audience, you appreciate their goals first – not yours.  You appreciate their challenges first – not yours.  The key is an in-depth focus on behaviour, whether they are customers, members, or users. This kind of focus comes from research. This kind of innovation comes from a process.

Here at Akendi, we use a specific process with our clients to help uncover and identify opportunities for innovation. The phases of Opportunity Discovery, Idea Exploration and Concept Incubation guide our efforts and, with a solid understanding of the audience, it identifies strategies (or services or products) that fit! This process can easily adapt to support innovation at all levels – no matter the industry. But don’t gloss over the fact that a clear understanding of the audience, in this case the members, is priority one!

And here’s the punch line.   True innovators get this focus on users and behaviour, regardless of the industry they are in!  Check out this video from arguably the most innovative technology visionary.

Shaun Illingworth

Shaun Illingworth

Akendi Alumnus


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About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.