The Filene Research Institute’s i3 program (ideas, innovation, and implementation) has yielded many lessons for credit unions in the area of innovation, says Tansley Stearns, chief impact officer for the Filene Research Institute.
The Filene Method of Innovation upon which i3 is based takes a human-centered design approach to innovation, Stearns told attendees of the CUNA Lending Council Conference Sunday in San Diego.
Human-centered design proposes that that for an idea to be successful, it must be desirable, feasible, and viable. “We firmly believe that the best innovation for credit unions is grounded in the needs of the people they serve and are working to attract,” Stearns says. “If they can solve the biggest problems their members, potential members, and employees have, those are going to be winning ideas.”
Filene’s i3 program started in 2004. Since that time, Stearns says, it has revealed several essential lessons about innovation, including the need to:
• Foster intellectual curiosity. Teams that approach their i3 experience with an answer-seeking mindset are far more successful than those with an answer-presenting mindset.
“Seek answers to tough questions through experimentation, expert guidance, and thoughtful study,” Stearns advises.
• Leverage your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Teams that make the most out of each member’s talents will find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“Determine what talents you can contribute to help the team reach its goals,” she says.
• Go slow to go fast. Take your time to gather insights, identify specific problems to solve, and ideate around those problems, Stearns says: “The more specific you can be about these items, the more focused you’ll be when it comes to building a solution.”
• Use google.com. A good, old-fashioned Google search can help you find solutions to the problem you’re trying to solve, data supporting or disproving your assumptions, insights from consumers, information about what competitors and other industries are doing, and more.
• Mine the i3 portfolio. Know what came before you and what you can learn from earlier attempts. “We all want to build ideas from scratch,” Stearns says, “but we must realize that maximizing our impact on consumers and credit unions may mean taking an old idea and making it better.”
• Realize that “perfect” doesn’t exist. “Good enough” usually isn’t good enough for your credit union—but in a six-month innovation cycle, it might be the closest to perfection that you’ll get.
“This doesn’t mean you should set low expectations,” Stearns says. “Instead, it means you should keep your eyes on implementation. If you get too hung up on perfecting every aspect of your idea or adding too many features, you’ll never launch your idea.
“Failure to launch is failure. Launching a ‘good enough’ idea is a major success.”