Seen Elsewhere: Building Creative Capacity, Emerging Education Models, and Group Decision Making

In one of my volunteer roles, I write a feature in the ASAE Executive Management Section IdeaLink newsletter called Seen Elsewhere.  Every few months I share a few interesting websites, blogs, or publications from sources a bit off the beaten path of most volunteer or staff leaders to provide a professional development field trip.  With ASAE's permission, I reprint them here, a few months after their original online publication.  Thanks to Joe Rominiecki, Senior Editor, for helping polish my submissions into a more appealing form.

Summary: A selection of thought-provoking content from beyond the association management realm that offers new ideas for association executives. In this edition, explore resources for interdisciplinary thinking and mind expansion, gain insights into alternative learning approaches and the increasingly rapid disruption of exiting educational systems and institutions, and consider one approach for engaging the wisdom of the crowd in an old-school fashion.   

Expanding What You See to Increase Your Creative Capacity
Books like The Medici Effect, by Frans Johannson, and Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson, confirm what we've long known: innovation in one field often occurs when an idea from another is associated into a new context. Peanut butter + chocolate = bestseller.  Since keeping up on required association management reading can be challenging enough, here are two well-curated sources featuring interdisciplinary content that might stimulate your associating and innovation capabilities.

Brain Pickings. Each week, curator Maria Popova's website explores dozens of fascinating resources and ideas, an eclectic mix drawn from current and past content sources and usually tied to a core theme such as science, creativity, decision making. The best are delivered in a free newsletter every Sunday and make for an inspired start to the week ahead. You might also join the more than 160,000 people who follow her on Twitter: @brainpicker.

ChangeThis. This site is on a mission "to spread important ideas and to change minds." Where TED Talks do so in a video format, ChangeThis does so by releasing attractively-designed manifestos on topics related to leadership and life. Some of the most popular manifestos include: "How To Be Creative," "Leading Transformation and Captivating Communities," "The Personal MBA: Mastering Business Without Spending a Fortune," and "Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator." Use an RSS feed to receive real-time updates of new manifesto releases or subscribe to the e-newsletter for a summary of recent releases.
Both of these sites also serve as great examples of how associations could more effectively curate and share interdisciplinary content for members and facilitate ideas spreading.  See ASAE's Acronym blog for a great Joe Rominiecki post featuring curated content about content curation (he's clever).

How Secure is Your Professional Development Revenue Stream?
While you may have staff devoted exclusively to learning and professional development, you'd be wise to remain aware of some of the rapidly emerging trends in education delivery, since they have the potential to dramatically alter the learning landscape and the revenue that associations receive from their offerings. Here are a few of the recent developments in education that no doubt will find their way in some form to association efforts.

The Flipped Learning phenomenon is gaining major traction in elementary and secondary education. Its premise is simple: Flip the lecture and lab so that the time in classrooms is spent with teachers helping students learn at their own pace and often in collaboration with others. "Homework" now often consists of videotaped lectures that students can watch on their own, starting and stopping as their needs require.

The Khan Academy is perhaps the most well-known organization embracing the spirit of flipped learning. Its mission, "to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere," has received noteworthy grant funding, and the academy is rapidly amassing a video learning library for teachers and students on a variety of subjects, math and science still dominating. Here's a TED Talk featuring the academy's founder, Salman Khan, talking about how to use video to reinvent education.

Open source education. MIT long ago made a commitment to fully open the doors on education, making lecture notes, exams, and videos available for free online as part of its MIT Open Courseware Project. Professors from Stanford have created Coursera, a Khan Academy-style effort but featuring courses from the top universities for free. Other efforts to open and expand learning access that are similar in spirit but different in approach can be found at The Open University and SkillShare.  And no doubt the new TED effort, TED ED-Lessons Worth Sharing, will further accelerate disruption and innovation,
Engaging Diverse Perspectives and Making Decisions in Large Groups
We often find ourselves in rather large groups trying to deliberate and decide in the most expedient fashion. Dotmocracy offers a very inexpensive and easy technique to "help people quickly recognize their collective preferences, which can then lead to the crafting of popularly supported on the left. A free downloadable PDF handbook provides all the information you need to use the process.

[Sample Dotmocracy worksheet from, shared via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.]

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