Industry innovation is often sought after, but rarely attained. That’s because it doesn't work unless you do.
Innovation starts as an attitude, with the willingness to openly welcome change and continues with hard work and a dedication to achieve results. It is an organizational culture to embrace and feed constantly by looking outside the industry and challenging yourselves to do better.
Innovation can be uncomfortable, vulnerable—and sometimes messy. For management and staff to feel comfortable stepping outside of the norm and creating something that no one else has thought of or dared to do, this mindset needs to start at the top with the board and CEO.
For a truly innovative culture, the board and CEO need to look at why you are doing what you are doing and ask if it makes sense. Decisions should be future-focused instead of based on who your credit union used to be or originally served.
Although credit unions are cooperatives, they are also businesses that need to make money and maintain longevity. As a board member, notice the innovations you experience as a consumer outside of the financial industry and ask how you can adapt them to your organization.
As companies expand their reach into nonconventional lending, it's more important than ever to challenge the way things have always been done.
Board members are in a unique position to experience your credit union just as consumers do. Pay attention to the member experience, convenience, and ease of use.
How does your credit union stack up against the customized experience companies like Amazon and Apple provide? Could you do more with the data the credit union already has?
Leaders should bring new ideas to the table, but it is equally important to develop a workplace culture where anyone on the team can suggest innovations. Allow and encourage staff members to give feedback on how work can be done better, more efficiently, or more simply.
Let ideas and strategies bubble up within the organization and create a structure where you can research and pursue good ideas.
Don’t just focus on financial performance goals. Set innovation goals, too.
The right people can effectively execute change. Do “innovation audits” to analyze how your credit union compares to its peers and companies outside of the financial services industry. Ask if your credit union pursues only projects other credit unions are implementing or if your credit union is trying to change the game.
Innovative projects don’t stop once they have been rolled out. It is imperative to continually track a project’s performance and impact.
This information will inform future decisions, ensure your organization accomplishes what it sets out to do, and create a culture that asks, “How can we do it better?”
To pursue innovation, don’t just talk about it. Do the work. Research, create a plan, and deliver results. Encourage your team to come with new ideas and celebrate them. Look outside the industry to see how to do it better.
Focus on how to simplify and improve your members' experience and you will get there.
STACIE VANDENBERGHE is the CEO of CU Innovate. SAMANTHA BROWN is the director of consulting and innovation at CU Innovate.
This article initially appeared in Credit Union Directors Newsletter, which provides strategic insights for policymakers. Subscribe now to the print or PDF version.