We are living in a period where we are straddling two different society cultures and economies.
We are transitioning from a push economy to a pull economy.
From Hierarchical To Networked-Based
Today’s participatory networked culture has changed business and organizations from a push approach (hierarchical, from the center out to others), to a pull approach (networked -based and decentralized).
This poses new challenges to institutions, organizations and specifically nonprofit associations that are largely designed to support push economies. Some are still wrestling with how to adapt to this transition. Some find that their structures are opposed to the pull approach.
Push economies try to anticipate consumer and member demands. Departmentalized silos create a standardized product and then push that product into the marketplace. They broadcast their services and products through traditional distribution channels and marketing.
Push economies are geared toward mass consumption. Leaders route resources to the right places at the right times to create mass, standardized products. One size fits all is the mantra. Push models are most successful when consumers or members don’t know what they want.
Push economies tend to incur huge overhead costs in administration during growth. They often have difficulty being nimble and applying innovation.
Pull economies provide open and flexible platforms. Decentralized networks, often working across unrelated areas, produce customized products and services that serve specific niche audiences.
Organizations accustomed to pull strategies respond to demand-driven needs rapidly. They are extremely agile, flexible and nimble. They adapt quickly to change and win loyalty through a combination of speed and quality.
Pull economies tend to build and strengthen the capacity and competence of their networked partners. They share best practices freely and provide important feedback. Pull approaches capitalize on the enthusiasm and innovation of all of their participants.
New Challenges For Nonprofit Associations
Interestingly, pull approaches were the foundation of many nonprofit associations. These organizations started on the principle of serving all of their members and their industry. They focused on what was in the best interest of members, profession or trade. They tapped collective insight and resources.
During the past three decades, many nonprofit associations began adopting push methods in order to drive revenue. Association leaders found themselves in an ironic position of dealing with the tension of two areas:
- Finding new revenue streams to support their organizational structure and fixed costs.
- Serving their members needs.
Associations developed products and services for mass consumption by their members. Today, members have become increasingly specialized and much of the association’s products and services miss the mark. Some members have turned to online social networks as their source for best practices, content, feedback and mindshare.
Today associations are struggling with finding ways to add more value to their members. They are being forced to change their professional development offerings that educate people on how to operate in push economies. They are having to rethink traditional employee organizational charts and top-down models.
Ultimately, pull economies center around creating relationships of trust, sharing knowledge and close cooperation among network participants. Non-market value creation–tacit knowledge, intangible value–is steered towards common sharing. This is challenging to associations who used to be the sole source of profession- or industry-specific information. The wisdom and collective knowledge now rests in the networks that anyone can access.
What are some pull strategies that associations can implement easily? What are the barriers for associations adapting to the pull economy?