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Sell Scarcity, Give Away Abundance

Note: This post is part 1 of 4 in a series of posts. The parent article is “ISA: One Member’s Vision.”

Many thanks to Jim Pinto for bringing this into focus for me with his recent InTech article, “Sell scarcities, not abundance.” I’ve taken the liberty of expanding on his thesis by leveraging the concepts of “freeconomics.” I am intrigued by the possibility of making ISA membership free. Yes, I said it – free. In 1945, it was extremely difficult to network with engineers 500 miles away, let alone 3,000. And it was costly for an organization to facilitate those networks. It made sense to charge members for that service and it was valuable enough for people to pay for it. It is based on a model that assumes that people could not simply self-assemble. Now they can. The transactions costs associated with facilitating conversations and sharing information have become “too cheap to meter.” They are, for all intents and purposes, free. ISA needs to recognize that it does not provide value by either organizing or facilitating those networks. They will organize themselves with or without our help (by the way, they already have begun). Stating the obvious, it would be better for us if it is “with.”

Obviously, the business model must change in order to accommodate this. It seems to me that it is currently backwards; scarcities like standards are free, while abundances like information and advertising are not.


  • Industry standards
  • Certification
  • Peer recognition


  • Information
  • Networking
  • Advertising space

What if there were multiple membership levels or, in other words, a “freemium” model? Basic ISA membership is free, which provides access to the abundant resources of the new web site (to be discussed later), web seminars, technical library, mentoring, networking opportunities, and (perhaps) discounted fees for events, books, standards, etc… Premium membership may look more like the current model and its list of member benefits including “x” number of free standards. Membership in Divisions and Sections should always be free and unlimited. Proximity is no longer a prerequisite for participation and contribution.

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