While many of my friends and coworkers spent childhood days on the field engaging in some sort of team sport, it will come as a shock to absolutely no one that my days were spent in the school library.

At every available moment, I would sneak into the stacks, thumb through the collection of books, and try to find something new that would capture my imagination. At the risk of dating myself, I’ll share that my junior high afternoons were generally spent between two (very different) series: one was Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High. And the other? Choose Your Own Adventure, which is the inspiration for my upcoming 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting session, coming up in just four short days.  

Published from 1979 to 1998, Choose Your Own Adventure is a series of children’s books, many of which are still circulating around libraries and used bookstores everywhere. Choose Your Own Adventure ostensibly asks the reader to take stock of her surroundings and make the best-informed choices possible.

Reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book can feel like being lost in a maze and running through twists and turns only to find dead ends, switchbacks, and disappointment. Even as an adult I find myself thinking about Choose Your Own Adventure books more than I’d care to admit. If you don’t get what you want, you can go back and have a do-over. And there are no strictly right or wrong choices.

Isn’t this true for us in our professional lives, too?

The associations we speak with are often terrified to introduce change into their organization, worried about long-lasting implications that may, or may not, come to pass. We see this most frequently with regards to testing options around membership. Of course, you should prepare and do your due diligence to ensure your choices are informed, but there are smart ways to test new ideas. You can Choose Your Own Adventure, charting your own path and flipping back pages when the outcome isn’t quite the one you’d intended.

When invited to submit an abstract for presentation at ASAE’s 2017 Annual Meeting this weekend in Toronto, I jumped at the chance to revisit my childhood love and share ways organizations could embrace the thrill of the unknown, while ensuring they’re not inviting unnecessary risk. Interested in helping us unravel the mystery? Join me for, “Choose Your Own Adventure: Paths to Membership Model Success.” I’ll be in Room 206AB on Sunday, August 13 from 4 to 5 p.m., and can’t wait to hear more about the choices you’re making.