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November 29, 2006

Memories < Dreams

I was a history major, so it would seem this project is right up my alley.

My association is coming up on its 100th anniversary in 2009, and one of my special projects is to coordinate the overall centennial campaign. The last association I worked for also hit its 100th while I worked there, and I just don't remember there being a whole lot of excitement about the centennial. I'm looking forward to helping bring it all together, from publications to events to membership promotions to special web sites.

The whole process of planning for a centennial celebration is marinated in nostalgia. Let's talk about all the successes we've had over the years, find pictures from the old days, interview our oldest living member, etc. Focusing on the past is extremely uncomfortable for me. I really want to make sure our celebration doesn't focus exclusively on history, but really peers out into the future of what this association and profession could become in the future.

Concurrently, I've finally gotten through The World Is Flat. Near the end of the book, Friedman quotes business consultant Michael Hammer, and I felt as if I'd been hit with a hammer when I read it:

"One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how great they were in the past... You don't want to forget your identity... [but] when memories exceed dreams, the end is near."
While planning for this centennial, it's going to be difficult to inspect our past, and yet at the same time, concentrate on our future. Nostalgia is an attractive distraction, but I need to find a way to keep a 21st-century state of mind, too.


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