Monday, September 23, 2019

Finding the Common Threads

Conference time is always a time of self-reflection for me. Having just returned from the Association of Professional Genealogists' 2019 Professional Management Conference, I have a lot to ponder. Plenty of input leads to plenty of output...eventually. But first, the thinking part.

It just so happened that, in another blog I follow (and not one in the field of genealogy), a post yesterday seemed to align perfectly with that pondering mood in which I found myself at the close of the APG conference. The post, written by marketing guru Seth Godin, touched briefly on what he calls wayfinding: what you need to do when "the task ahead is not quite the same as what you've done before."

His advice: find "the common threads." In other words, look for the analogies, but discern how the differences can impact the outcome.

In our family's business—a multi-faceted training company—I've lately been exploring the possibility that some of the skills our company brings to the table for other businesses could possibly cross-apply to the struggling non-profit entities we know in the family history world as genealogical societies. I spent the past week exploring that very thought with other attendees at the conference, seeking input from key people there.

The trouble with this idea is: it hasn't really been tried before. There are many gaps between what is needed and what has been provided in the past. And there certainly are drawbacks, as well. Seth Godin's blog post struck a chord with me there: the task calls for what he labels "wayfinding." And in this matter, I'm definitely having to find my way.

The comparison to developing the skill of "finding the common threads," though, quite comfortably resonated with me. And that's encouraging. There are several familiar, "common" threads to be grasped and gently coaxed through the weave of this new material. There may yet be a way found to take the concepts of the business world and distill them to aptly apply to the nonprofit world of organizations as local and focused as our genealogical societies. And that's a good thing, at least for those forward-thinking societies which wish to evolve with the changing times and see themselves become pertinent to future generations of researchers. No matter what the times, each generation's goal in finding their roots—and organizing to help each other do so—does contain common threads. We just need to identify which ones make the difference for those who are willing to face the changes ahead for societies. 

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