As I attended sessions and talked to colleagues, presenters, and attendees at this week’s 2016 ASAE Annual Conference & Expo, an underlying message was consistently brought up. Disruption. From the opening keynote to the conversations I heard and participated in, the time for change is now.

The opening keynote was amazing and literally shot the audience out of this world. “To Infinity and Beyond,” featured astronauts Captains Mark and Scott Kelley. I’m already pretty obsessed with space, and they certainly triggered another round of binge watching “Cosmos.”  Bringing it back to associations … the Kelley brothers shared their experiences in outer space, and encouraged people to question the status quo.

Encouraging disruption and asking questions, coupled with working hard towards a goal, will always pay off. Mark and Scott exchanged plenty of witty banter on stage, and somehow managed to make all their accomplishments seem achievable for anyone.

Their secret? Compartmentalization. By breaking down seemingly huge goals of becoming astronauts, to overcoming obstacles in space, they took each set of challenges and focused on the things they could control. Each new obstacle was treated as an opportunity to do and go where few have gone before and advance science and mankind.

Associations are overwhelmingly being encouraged to break away from their standard operating procedures and to basically, “Stop Thinking Like an Association,” which was one of the sessions I attended, presented by John Foley of interlinkONE and Samantha Lake from Grow Socially.

As Foley and Lake explained, successful for-profit companies and entrepreneurs know the secret to success is to stay ahead of the curve and learn how to break the mold in this digital age. Associations need to keep pace with modern trends and learn how to meet members where they are.

Whether it’s how and when you communicate, what content you deliver, or how it’s packaged, traditional membership models, journal publications, and annual conferences aren’t cutting it for members anymore. Expectations have changed and associations needs to adapt or face the fate of the dinosaurs. Darwin’s Law is in effect, and associations, like any other company, have to compete with the best of the best to survive.

Even the way we treat and read our data is being disrupted. During “Leveraging Mistakes and Mishaps: Strengthening Your Association Using Data as an Asset,” Christin Berry of ASAE and Debbie King, CEO of Association Analytics, encouraged associations to go beyond the basic information that data housed in your association management system (AMS) can tell you, and to challenge yourself to ask questions you didn’t know you didn’t know – the unknown unknowns as it’s sometimes called.

But, just having the data really isn’t enough. You need healthy, quality data so you can make informed decisions. Berry and King encourage association professionals to go beyond the standard questions we look to data to answer – membership type, demographics, giving history, etc., and start looking at predictive analytics by combining the implicit and the explicit to give a 360-degree view of each member. From there, with healthy data, you can detect issues and be proactive about how, what, and when you communicate and interact with not just your members, but the audiences of your audiences.

Are you ready to disrupt and question your status quo? What were your favorite sessions at this year’s ASAE Annual Conference? Share your thoughts and insights below.