If your organization is discussing relevance, odds are you aren’t. BUT, if you are willing to admit that you may be closer than you think to the solution. Relevance has long been a waste bucket that get’s all the blame for why organizations are not connecting with the culture or the market. If we can blame relevance for our lack of market engagement than we don’t have to dig any deeper into our vision, mission, systems or delivery. To be relevant means to be, “Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done.” Being relevant means taking notice of what is happening and connecting to those values and actions that keeps the system in motion. If you recognize that you don’t understand, you can begin your journey to engage by observing what is happening, finding those whom you trust that are active in the movement and then figuring out where your core values, knowledge, experience and skills can contribute to that organism. Confront reality so that you can connect with the culture and collaborate to make a difference.
An organization, whether for profit or charitable, is by definition irrelevant when they discuss the culture from the sidelines and lament that their product or service is not being well received. If you are saying, “No one is coming. No one is buying. No one likes us.” Or whatever fancy speak you use in the confines of your secret huddle sessions, the nature of your conversation is holding you back because you are asking the wrong questions. Instead of why is no one coming, ask yourselves – what are they doing? For example, if a church is noticing declining membership and blames it on relevance they might remark, “People are not coming because they aren’t going to church.” This isn’t an answer as it is first shortsighted confirmation bias from a very narrow survey group, it is a redundant reflection where your group has merely reframed the observation from question to statement and the conclusion is not based on digging beneath the surface. They aren’t coming is an effect, what is the cause (see more on effect vs. cause HERE) and like a disease, if you do not chase down the cause you will never reach a solution for the effects. Things are getting done and organizations are making positive impacts around the world, relevance is asking the right questions to connect with the work that is underway.
As we dig into causes for the effects that we do not find appealing, we notice that we have to get our hands dirty in the soil of the culture in order to extract answers. As an organization you may need a guide, you may need interpreters and you may need new tools. If you recognize that the culture or market is has (or is starting to) pass you by then you need to understand that you are in unchartered territory, everything around you has changed while you were blaming relevance. Again, admitting that will get you closer to the remedy than refusing to recognize this reality. Please remember, the key to relevance is not discovering how you can get people back to your organization but how your organization can recognize, connect and engage with what is already in motion. The market changes but businesses who want to says, “We’ve always done it this way, the market will come back around when they realize the new methods aren’t that cool,” that organization is dying. What is happening and how can we help. If the culture or the market is not engaging you, maybe you need to confront the reality that you aren’t helping. The economy is still in operation and there are businesses that are growing, relevance is finding where you fit in the puzzle to collaborate to make the world a better place.
If you think that I am wrong, you are right. Enjoy your power sessions on relevance. If you are earnest about wanting to be relevant, the first thing you need to do is take that term out of your vocabulary. Start with confronting reality and say it out loud, “I am not relevant. We are not relevant.” If you can do that, especially if you can do it as a team, you are finally on the right path to reaching what you say you want. Ask good questions so that you can discover what is in motion around you. Find a way to connect with stakeholders in the movement that you want to engage in and simply ask, “How can we help.” As you change your mindset, evolve your approach and put your hands to work, you will find that you are closer to being relevant than you ever were in your relevance conferences.
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Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer