So that’s it then.
I have given in my cards. I have declined to renew my memberships to the British Council for Offices (BCO) and CoreNet Global (in reality CoreNet USA). And now that the Workplace Consulting Organisation (WCO) – on the brink of obscurity – has decided to charge for membership, I have left that too. That would just leave the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), but I believe the corporate membership I was once included within was cancelled. So now I don’t belong to anything professional that charges a fee. Free. Or lonely?
I used to rely heavily on professional bodies and their organised events for the building of a network, in the days before social media (if there were actually days before). You proudly displayed the badge on your CV. You talked up your commitment to networking. You attended CPD events and marked them off in your diary.
True, there are some bodies whose professional exams confer the right to enter and practice a profession. I acknowledge their right to do so as examination boards. However even they, in their broader sense, lie within the scope of what I say below.
The contention of this blog is that their place and future of professional and trade organisations in our working lives is no longer assured. Here are some possible reasons why:
- They – like guilds – are internally focussed, committed to preserving the mystique and unique character of the trade, and creating real or perceived barriers to entry – yet the value of interaction is increasingly being derived from an all-encompassing open environment, where multiple perspectives and differing experience is valued… this is the essence of co-working, jellies, tweet-ups, unconferences, barcamps…. who only wants to mix with people who do similar things to you?
- “Structured” is now more likely than not instantly unappealing – it implies format, rigidity, constraint, format, authority, direction – all concepts that are anathema to free thought, tangents, inspiration and surprise
- The bulk of membership fees levied go toward funding and supporting a bloated self-fulfilling zero-value bureaucracy with rules, policies, regulations and other expected but unnecessary “services”
- They are inherently out-dated – there will always be those whose thinking and practices have moved on, while the organisations languish – by the time they are recognise trends that may affect themselves or their profession, and a committee or working group is formed to discuss them, the trends have matured, and new trends are emerging from them
- Younger professionals have already established informal networks made possible by social media, and therefore have already peeled away by the time they may be ready to join – or do so soon after joining, realising that the benefit is minimal at best
- They fund and issue publications that no-one needs, and claim ownership of knowledge and information – but the best stuff is already out there, freely available, as its published
- The credibility once associated with membership – on your CV, say – is now better expressed through your full three-dimensional identity – your wider networks, your blog, your social interactions – you no longer need the stamp of legitimacy that membership once conferred, as it is your broader activity that generates a greater credibility
- They rely on the energy, commitment, enthusiasm and IP of the individual members to create their value proposition, despite charging them to belong – and the members are realising that the same (and greater) value can be obtained outside the organisation, and without charge
- They confer a multitude of “awards” that are becoming increasingly meaningless as in a networked world success and achievement is transmitted quickly and appraisal almost instantaneous – and a far greater value is placed on experimentation and courageous initiative that awards do not recognise – the judgment of the organisation no longer equates to the value in the profession
So in celebration of all that is unplanned, unstructured, tangential, multidisciplinary and undisciplined, and of course free of charge, I thought I might create the Global Institute of Nowhere (GiN). A pointless, non-membership, ungoverned professional body for everyone. And everything has a lower case “i” in it these days.
Here at GiN we encourage active participation. It really is very easy. Get a blog, get a Twitter account, get off your backside and meet people. See you out there.