In the past, there were fast companies and those that weren’t. Fast companies could innovate and keep up with change.
That’s not the case today.
“Every company is a fast company. You just have to find the fast parts of a slow company,” says Stephanie Mehta, CEO and chief content officer at Mansueto Ventures, parent company of Inc. and Fast Company. She addressed the 2023 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Conference Wednesday in Denver.
Mehta offers seven ways to become a faster company and, in the process, build an innovative culture:
1. Expand what innovation means. For years, innovation centered around technology or products and services. Mehta urges people to rethink their definition of innovation to include organizational innovation and who participates in innovation efforts.
“It’s amazing how, when we expand the definition of innovation, we see how that contributes to the culture, speed, and efficiency of an organization,” she says.
2. Make innovation part of your mission. Align innovation efforts with your mission, she advises, adding that credit unions already have a strong sense of purpose and mission.
“You are obsessed with serving your members,” she says.
3. Celebrate curiosity. Create a growth mindset at your credit union. Encourage people to take advantage of learning opportunities and reframe failure as an opportunity to learn.
“If you encourage people to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and think of failure not as something bad but as something exciting, it allows you to grow faster,” Mehta says.
4. Be anti-fragile. During the pandemic, many organizations were resilient. They took hits, but always bounced back.
While that worked, Mehta says organizations should instead strive to be “anti-fragile” and build back to something better than what existed before.
5. Build an innovation ecosystem. While organizations can be innovative on their own, Mehta says it’s often easier and faster to collaborate with others when it comes to innovation.
By working together, organizations can move more quickly and scale innovative efforts. “Innovation is a team sport,” Mehta says.
6. Lead with empathy. Understanding and connecting with what other people are feeling can boost speed and innovation. Teams that have high levels of empathy perform better than those that don’t, Mehta says.
Empathy allows teams to build trust, become more efficient, and understand how others work. “Empathy is a skill you’re going to need going forward,” she says. “No machine will be able to replicate that.”
7. Remember the basics. Invest in the fundamentals so your credit union can innovate quickly.
“If we get the basics right, innovation will follow,” Mehta says. “If you don’t get the basics right, you won’t be able to innovate, or innovate with speed.”