Nichol Beckstrand
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Fearless Disruption

Multi Housing Advocate, Advocate 2019

Fearless Disruption . . . two words I didn’t expect to be using in this column and in my role in multi-housing. But we all experience times and situations in which we need to be not just confident and informed, but fearless. And there’s an old adage that “if you are not being a disrupter, you’re likely being disrupted.” For our association, and how it can most effectively thrive, serve its members and their communities, and address issues across Minnesota, the time for fearless disruption has come. To grow outstate engagement, to get better known for the positive things our members do every day, to use social media more broadly and effectively, we clearly need fearless disruption.

We know from history that being disrupted in business probably means you’re no longer relevant. Look at Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak, even our very own Best Buy had to reinvent the consumer experience before they fell ill with what Radio Shack had unwittingly cultivated: irrelevance. We need to be relevant.  And to be relevant, we need to provide value to our members, potential members, municipalities, and the general public. To provide value, we need to be cutting edge.

I see two challenges with this. 1) Associations are not known for being cutting edge. 2) And with an ever-growing (trending) number of networks, social media and devices, associations “suddenly” have many informal competitors. I have heard many times since I arrived at MHA that millennials don’t see the value in associations. I said Yes, they do. They congregate on websites and apps such as Meetup.com where they meet like-minded people and share experiences, referrals and knowledge.  

This seems to harken back to the days of the original association when most people who should’ve belonged and supported the association did not belong, even though they benefitted from what MHA did. It was by adding classes, publications, a hotline, and a respected presence at the capitol that MHA became better known, more appreciated and relevant to others in the industry. When MHA developed its lease, certification programs, and, most significantly, a membership category fairly priced for people with 20 units or less, MHA became valuable –relevant– to many, many more people. Now, in 2019, as the pace of life both real and virtual speeds up, it’s harder and harder to grow, or even retain members, and be relevant, without fearless disruption.

Some of these Meetup.com-types may not appreciate the formality that an association provides because they might not understand the reason for it. We need to let them know that formality and organization are still necessary to effectively engage with elected officials, city councils, policymakers, etc., but that we do many other things; some with no formality at. But the great things we’ve done, and will continue to do, can only be relevant to them, if we do them differently, faster, in ways that engage them, with opportunities to network, share tips, ideas, and lots of photos. We need fearless disruption to shape and accelerate what we do next.

There is a mix of reflection, impatience and excitement in my head these days. That is because we are just about to share with the Board (and then release to the universe) our new Brand and Manifesto. Yes, I said manifesto. Though the word now has bad connotations –due to views and objectives laid out in manifestoes by bad or tyrannical people– it’s coming back to fearlessly disrupt what a mission statement is, and embolden what’s laid out with views, intentions and objectives. Some older members of our brand working group think that it’s a dramatic change, while some younger members think it’s about time. All of them agree that it’s bold, positive and necessary.  

All my life I have been attracted to industries undergoing great change or, I should say, chaos.  What appeals to me aren’t the negative realities of the present, but the unique opportunities for innovation that exist during times of chaos.  For the first time in its 52 years of existence, the Minnesota Multi Housing Association will have the term innovation as a key value statement. This might be hard to imagine, especially since MHA staff have said that innovation doesn’t define them. This makes me extremely excited. Whether we work on day-to-day improvement innovations or look into groundbreaking building methodologies, we will lead with a mindset of innovation.  At each Board meeting in 2019 we will discuss topics that are challenging to the multi-housing industry. From these discussions I believe that, with the right grit, determination, and membership network, we can envision and innovate what we need to address the challenges, or turn them into opportunities; and make MHA stronger, better known for the good that we do, and more relevant.
Most days I think I scare the staff. The only one who can one up me in imagination and comfort with chaos is Tom Cassidy. I think he enjoys my daily efforts to bounce ideas off his creative brain. But what do you think? How and where can MHA lead the way? What makes us relevant to you; and what can make us more relevant to others? Hang on tight. The MHA Research and Development Department is just getting started, and it’s starting with a fearlessly disruptive, rock solid Manifesto

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