Interview: Jeff De Cagna, Principled Innovation – August 5, 2005

In this edition of For Immediate Release podcast interviews, Shel and Neville enjoyed a 55-minute conversation with Jeff De Cagna, founder of Principled Innovation LLC. Topics and themes discussed include: the challenges for volunteers and staff of association; reducing governance in associations; advocacy and taking stands on issues; the dead strategic planning model and what should be in place instead; opening up to new ideas and learning; the uneven distribution of a future that’s already here.

About our conversation partner:

Jeff De Cagna is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC, Arlington, Virginia, USA. A former association executive with various regional, national and international associations, Jeff founded Principled Innovation LLC in February 2002 to advance his mission of making innovation more possible in the association community. Today, Principled Innovation LLC works exclusively with associations on the challenge of organizing for innovation in a turbulent and uncertain world. Jeff is also principal and co-founder of Association Renewal LLC, a joint venture of Notter Consulting and Principled Innovation LLC, with offices in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.

Jeff is a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and a frequent speaker and author for various trade and professional organizations, including ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership. He served as the founding managing editor of the Journal of Association Leadership, the association community’s only peer-reviewed journal, and still serves on the publication’s editorial advisory board. Jeff has been a member of both the ASAE Executive Management and Professional Development Section Councils, and has chaired various task forces and working groups over many years.

Jeff writes The Association Innovation Blog and he is the association community’s podcasting pioneer, producing the Associations Unorthodox podcast. A graduate of The Johns Hopkins University, Jeff received a master of education degree from Harvard University.

Download MP3 podcast

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Interview Segment Time Points:

  • 00:07 Shel introduces the interview.
  • 01:15 Jeff talks about his background and his involvements with various associations on the staff side, and his activities with his companies.
  • 04:11 Jeff on his volunteerism roles in associations.
  • 06:41 Neville comments on volunteerism and the small groups of ‘always volunteers’ and asks if that is to do with the characteristics of individuals or something not right with the structures of associations.
  • 07:42 Difficult to avoid the ‘core group phenomenon,’ Jeff says, and speaks about the challenges facing associations and their staffs.
  • 12:14 Shel comments on IABC reducing the size of its executive board ands asks if this is a good first step.
  • 12:39 Jeff explains why he believes it’s essential for associations to reduce the size of their governing groups, some of the benefits of doing so, and comments on the risks of associations not doing so.
  • 20:39 Neville comments on the seeming preoccupation of associations in talking about their structures rather than the benefits they deliver to members, and why they don’t take stands on crucial issues – such as ethics in the case of the PR profession – asking if this is something you would expect an association to be involved in.
  • 23:40 Jeff’s views on association advocacy and issues to consider including political and financial.
  • 30:32 Neville on why he thinks associations should collaborate to represent the profession on issues like ethics.
  • 31:44 There is value for associations in collaborating, Jeff says, building cooperation around issues of common interest.
  • 33:28 Jeff: we live in fundamentally different times which will be more different as we go forward; the web has taught us about the plausibility of the impossible.
  • 35:12 Shel comments on strategic planning and asks how heretical it would be if associations didn’t do strategic planning.
  • 35:48 Strategic planning is dead, says Jeff, and explains his indictment on why, believing that strategic planning today operates as a mechanism for top-down control by boards and CEOs.
  • 46:49 Shel asks what are some of the characteristics of associations that are starting to move in the right direction.
  • 47:02 Jeff: those who have moved beyond strategic planning as a methodology, and opened themselves up to ideas and learning, comment on organizational myopia and what the CEO should be paying attention to – the important not the urgent.
  • 49:46 Jeff: the future is already here but it’s unevenly distributed in the associations community.
  • 52:58 Shel and Neville wrap up the interview.
  • 53:59 About this podcast and where to find For Immediate Release.

Links for the individuals and organizations we discussed or mentioned in the conversation:

IABC, BPW/USA, American Corporate Counsel Association, Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, Special Libraries Association, ASAE, Center for Association Leadership, Chaordic Commons, Jay Rosen, Ketchumgate, Betsy Boyd Flynn article (PDF), Journal of Association Leadership, Kevin Kelly article, Wired, Skype, Netscape, The Attention Economy, William Gibson, PRSA, CCM, CPRS, IPRA.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)