23 May 2022

The CEO’s choice: Confronting collective challenges

At the Memcom CEO’s Choice event, held in London on 11th May, strategist Belden Menkus raised questions for leaders of membership bodies to consider, and called for collaboration between organisations to confront the major challenges we all face. This event was brought to you in partnership with Trillium.

Participants at the CEO Forum

The world of work has seen countless shifts in recent decades, from the physical to the virtual, local to global, and from vertical to horizontal as organisational hierarchies become flatter. The overarching shift is from the simple to the increasingly complex.

Our speed of adaptation and response is not keeping pace with this change and the complexity of issues we face, such as climate change, racism and poverty, among others.

These major issues, or ‘wicked problems’, are all interconnected. There are no clear boundaries between them, much less consensus as to what the solution might be.

Membership organisations in general have a huge role to play in tackling problems such as these, far beyond the action their members, or any eventual legislation, may require them to take. More specifically, your organisation has the skills and capabilities to make a significant impact in one of these areas of concern, whether that is environmental, to do with equality of opportunity, or governance and regulation. 

The rational, logical course of action would be not to do anything unless the board or your members are demanding it. The compelling reason you should tackle one of these issues is to be consistent with who you are as an individual and what you want your organisation to be.

Member organisations can leverage their particular strengths, that are generally only focused on members, and turn their attention outwards to the bigger picture.

The ‘superpowers’ that membership organisations have can help bring people together in a common cause. They include:  

  • Convening stakeholders
  • Developing a vision
  • Creating standards
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Co-ordinating action
  • Taking risks and telling the truth (something businesses and governments often find difficult!)

So, how do you figure out which external problem has your name on it?

No organisation can be a leader on everything – identify the one thing that really counts for you. To do this, map out the current situation. Ask yourself: what is happening out there?

Next, consider what your organisation’s unique skills and capabilities are.  

Having a clear idea of these two elements leads you to your purpose.

Discern your issue, then make a choice to act.

To secure buy-in from your board or members, appeal to their values, to what really matters to them.

Remember, the biggest strategic risk to your organisation is becoming irrelevant.  


Belden Menkus will be presenting on Purposeful Strategy at the Memcom Conference 2022 on June 29th.