JP Guilbault, president of Community Brands—the company recently formed to unite a number of major brands in the association space, including YourMembership, Abila, Aptify, and Nimble User— has played a leading role in some major changes in the nonprofit technology market. He is a leader in both innovation and transformation and has valuable insights for how organizations need to position themselves in order to effectively meet the needs of the people they serve.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with JP about challenges and opportunities related to the formation of Community Brands, how organizations need to be thinking about technology, and the critical role they play when it comes to promoting learning and education.
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[00:18] – Thank you to YourMembership, the podcast sponsor for the third quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s learning management system is specifically designed for professional education with a highly flexible and intuitive system that customizes the learning experience. YourMembership’s LMS seamlessly integrates with key systems to manage all of your educational content formats in one central location while providing powerful tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations, and learning communities.
[01:03] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Association Learning + Technology Report – a complementary report from Tagoras that provides the most comprehensive insights currently available on the use of technology to enhance and enable education in the association sector.
[03:07] – Introduction to JP.
[03:40] – To start off with, would you give us a status update on how putting all of the pieces of Community Brands together is going? JP shares that the integration and bringing together of the companies and culture is going quite well. They have an opportunity to continue to look at the broadening of a market, to innovate, and bring technology in a niche way to each of the organization’s sectors. In the past few months, they’ve continued to see strong growth.
[05:16] – What have you found most challenging about this from the perspective of a leader? What have you found the most surprising? JP says the most challenging is how people perceive mergers and acquisitions. They have to be diligent in educating people on how diversified brands can operate within a portfolio structure and gain advantages, which they’re developing for each of their markets. So it’s been more of an external education process, and that’s the piece they’re still working hard on.
As far as what’s been the most surprising, JP says it’s the complexity of business models/business processes that associations and non-profits have and the desire of those business processes to drive customization. Customization of software involves transformation and that requires tech companies and IT departments to move from being reactive to proactive. It’s going to be a journey of how to think about the balance between customization and what JP calls configuration ability to not lock organizations in.
[08:23] – You’ve brought all these different pieces together, so what’s your vision now for producing a whole that’s greater than the sum of it’s parts? JP says that new business models and/or greater market share can lead to more innovation. Although the software technologies they have today will lead to future value, he points out that the associations and non-profits are looking for organizations to help them with future products, and the collaboration among its constituent brands better positions Community Brands to deliver.
[11:52] – When you look out 3 to 5 years, what has changed dramatically? What has transformed that Community Brands has been a catalyst for—and how are learning and education are being supported across the sector you serve? JP’s view is that transformation should be driven by business strategy and the market – it’s not just about technology. Transformation means a complete change to key areas like the business rules, processes, decisions (like what gets automated and what doesn’t), and, most importantly, the culture. He then shares an example regarding Jet Blue’s recent decision to do away with the boarding pass/identification process through the use of facial recognition. Regarding the education space, JP is excited about the potential impact of the virtual reality.
[15:33] – What is fundamentally different about how organizations need to be thinking about technology now as opposed to even five years ago? JP focuses on the end user – what’s the user experience with your product/education/system – What is it they feel? How do you want them to react emotionally and how does that end-to-end experience get laid out in a way that doesn’t put barriers in front of the intended outcome? He often finds that we don’t start with the end user in mind, but that’s where transformative change needs for be focused, but often poor design of the user experience is the big barrier. JP emphasizes surprise and delight as a design concept. It’s those unexpected, but positive moments that create goodwill generate word of mouth for your programs and products.
People who have owned products or designed products tend to understand what they want from a user experience and the organizations that implement technology well are led with the user in mind. – JP Guilbault
[18:55] – What differentiates organizations that are truly successful in their use of technology – i.e. that are able to use it strategically to really increase the value they deliver to members? JP says one shift he has seen is an increase in product managers becoming leaders in businesses and organizations. People who have owned products or designed products tend to understand what they want from a user experience and the organizations that implement technology well are led with the user in mind. They also don’t view technology as a cost but rather as a way consider at what could be automated and the value of that automation. Really good organizations implement well, purchase well, have a good understanding of their user and the business process, and look at the return on automation and how much efficiency is created in their organization. What differentiates the “stand-out” organizations is that there is a person – usually someone who is present at board meetings – who consistently looks at technology from a strategic perspective versus a product/purchase perspective. Someone with a big picture perspective who understands that technology is an enabler to the strategic outcomes.
[22:18] – What technology trends have you most excited right now and why? JP reiterates that virtual and augmented reality represents an incredible opportunity. As lifelong learners, we tend to visualize (the experience, outcome, goal)and virtual reality is bringing visualization to the forefront. The augmented reality piece is giving us an opportunity to interact with our environment and makes making mistakes really safe. Using data modeling to place people, identify talent, and connect them with opportunity, is going to present a profound change in the workforce over the next 10-20 years. JP also notes that millenials often change careers multiple times in their lifetime and if associations get a better sense of where their members move to, there may be partnership opportunities among associations in the hiring and education markets.
[26:11] – What is the responsibility of organizations when it comes to ensuring that the fields/industries they serve are learning, growing, and evolving? JP points out that by nature, associations have a drive to promote, grow, and educate the profession. Organizations have to get out in front of what your consumer/member/future member is going to experience—this is an obligation for organizations that are serving a field or group—to recognize when disruption is about to occur or when a job is about to become automated. Organizations need to look at how they are promoting learning and education to grow and make sure every individual is successful.
[29:01] – What are your lifelong learning habits and practices? JP says learning is a passion for him, and if he could, he’d love to still take college courses all day long. He believes we have to accept that there’s always something new to learn—there has to be a mindset where you are always in a learning mode and know that it’s ok to fail. JP accepts failure, not as the outcome, but as a source of reflection and learning. He tries to stretch his learning out over longer periods of time—more frequently—but longer periods of time. He also uses technology (LinkedIn, Twitter, podcasts, etc.) and identifies people he’s interested in from a topic perspective or those with unique views and he follows them online. He also stresses the importance of seeking people out who are fundamentally different because they can educate you on something you might not see.
[33:54] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
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[35:15] – Sign off