Let's reinvent the association meeting! OK, I accept that those words probably don't set your blood on fire to get out there and start tinkering. Reinvention is nowhere near as sexy as, say, innovation or creation, is it? Yet I would argue that reinvention is going to be the thing that will pull associations — and everyone — out of our recessionary rut.

I know, when you think of reinvention, likely the first thing to pop into your mind is “reinventing the wheel,” and that's nothing to celebrate. In fact, it's a phrase denoting the futility of doing something that's already been done pretty much to perfection. (The wheel, according to Wikipedia, is the “archetype of human ingenuity.”) But in reality, the wheel is getting reinvented all the time — otherwise, instead of riding on steel-belted radials from Michelin, our cars would roll on something that looks like it belongs on Fred Flintstone's ride. And who's to say there isn't something even better than the wheel waiting to be discovered?

Consider the old saw about putting lipstick on a pig — if you can bear thinking about it after the recent election hoo-haw about pigs, lipstick, pit bulls, and hockey moms. True, just slapping some cosmetic changes on something isn't much of a reinvention, but, to take the example literally, how about making that pig a puppet? Or, rather, a Muppet? And in addition to lipstick, giving her a “moi-first” attitude and some funky friends? Jim Henson did it at “Sesame Street,” and he created a new world of learning for generations of kids.

What about the Nintendo Wii, that most-coveted object for everyone from grade-schoolers to yours truly? Video games are nothing new, after all, so why all the excitement over this particular gadget? Nintendo took a hard look at the oversaturated video gaming market and came up with something that appeals to more than the core video-gamer audience of adolescents by making it physically interactive, with an emphasis on “active.”

More examples? What is Cirque du Soleil but a reinvention of the circus that brings in such unlikely elements as street performances, opera, ballet, and rock music, while deleting the standard circus elements of star performers and animal acts? What is Curves but a reinvention of the gym as a woman-friendly place where those of us who aren't quite so buff feel comfortable going to work out? In fact, when you look at most businesses that are holding their heads above water these days, you'll find organizations that have found ways to reinvent their genre.

That's why, even though the associations profiled in our cover story, beginning on page 18, aren't doing anything that hasn't been done before, what they are doing is nonetheless vital, and well worthy of being showcased in a “reinvention gala,” complete with streamers and some (virtual) toasts. Reinvention is not secondary to innovation — it is innovation. And that's something to celebrate. Here's to the reinventors among us.

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