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Courage to Try Something Else: Tips for Successful Innovation

Innovation is important because it allows any organization an opportunity to differentiate—and contrary to common belief, it is not just possible for giants like Apple or Google with big budgets and seemingly endless resources.

Innovation is, in fact, manifested through small incremental changes we make on a daily basis that we change along the way that make life better and solve real problems for our colleagues and for the people that we serve.

If credit unions do just one thing to achieve success in innovation, it is this: change the lens through which you see the world. Make the experience of your members your own, because we are our members—with the same hopes, dreams, fears, and needs. This is the secret power of credit unions, and the key to innovation success, that no other financial provider can do better than credit unions!

What are the top three things that credit unions should know about innovation?

➊ The vast majority of innovations you should look to implement are incremental, yet high impact: changing the placement of a field, streamlining a process that provides relief, improving the experience of getting to a solution–not something that takes years to build and needs to solve for everything at once. It’s the little things that allow us to differentiate.

➋ To infuse innovation into your culture, invite diverse perspectives to the conversation. Start the conversation with a cross-sectional group of associates from all levels of the organizational chart and various parts of the business.

➌ Implementing innovation isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t require a degree in engineering. It doesn’t only happen in Silicon Valley. You just have to have people who are passionate about getting to the root of what the people you serve really need and are asking for. Once you’ve confirmed desirability, then you can consider feasibility and viability.

What are the top three things that credit unions should be doing right now to be more innovative?

➊ Put the person you’re solving for at the forefront of your conversation. Don’t build a solution before you first ask the question of who you are solving for and how a solution will help them. We often talk about the member experience using the terms “they” and “the member.” It’s as simple as changing the frame to talk about the experience as if this was happening to you—because we are our members.

 ➋ Embrace creativity, in all forms. It’s not just people who can draw or design who are the “creatives” in your organization; creative thinkers are everywhere. There are people who are creative in designing processes. There are people who are creative in creating different ways to engage with our members, or even internally with our colleagues. Each of those gifts should be celebrated. Take a lesson from improv and say “yes, and…” to every idea. Keep building on it, as something powerful can come out of it later.

➌ Invite new ideas actively and constantly. This can be as simple as expanding your current idea box to a simple list or spreadsheet that provides transparency around presented ideas and actions taken for each. It’s not about moving forward with every idea. Instead, it’s about opening a bi-directional conversation about innovation that shows that you are walking the talk, and actively considering ideas for every corner of the organization. The result? Greater associate engagement, and impactful innovations that address real consumer need.

Learn more about how the credit union industry is adapting in new and novel ways in the Innovation Edition of The Asterisk.