As an English major and a lover of books, one of my joys as mother of my four-year old daughter, MacKenzie, is reading Doctor Seuss. Her favorite is “The Lorax.”
The book is full of lessons. But the line that echoes in my head as we work with credit unions to develop and grow their competencies of innovation is this: “Truffula trees are what everyone needs.”
Our Filene Method of Innovation, born out of our i3 program (Ideas, Innovation, Implementation) is grounded in human-centered design. This approach helps credit unions avoid adopting the next coolest thing just because it is cool.
The entire process revolves around understanding and gathering insights from current and potential members, and employees. Those insights shine a light on the biggest problems these different constituents face.
In a member-centric culture, that is where the best ideas begin. They are the seeds and water for your credit union’s Truffula Trees.
Over the last two years, we have helped more than 23 credit unions and system organizations grow their culture of innovation through our innovation programs. This includes an Innovation Immersion, where we spend a day or more in an experiential learning session teaching credit union team members the methodology and having them practice the methodology.
They leave the day not only having learned the Filene Method but also with new ideas they can move forward within their organizations.
In preparation for these sessions, we survey the participants about the biggest problems facing their members, potential members, and employees. Common themes arise across credit unions, including:
The challenge for most credit unions is that gathering insights takes time, and nearly all credit union executives today are balancing many plates and wearing multiple hats.
Slowing down to better understand the unique needs and challenges of current and potential members and employees is hard as we run from meeting to webinar to email to phone call.
One key finding from building an innovation competency over ten years: Diversity on the innovation team matters.
This is great news for busy credit union executives. Frontline staff are some of the best resources for gathering insights on current and potential members. They interact with them daily and hear their problems and challenges.
As your credit union implements its 2015 strategies, try these five techniques for gathering insights and growing your credit union’s brightest future:
1. Use your team. Your frontline team, including your call center, branch team, and loan officers, are naturally gathering insights from your current and potential members daily. Talk with them. Work to develop a mechanism to solicit and collect insights weekly.
2. Head to 7-11. It’s not just a great place to buy a Slurpee. The 7-11, department of motor vehicles, or one of your branches are all wonderful locations for finding insights.
Go there and watch people for an hour. When do they smile? When are they grumpy? What are they doing? Note the insights and share them with the team.
3. Workarounds. Observe your members and talk with your team members about what members to do to “work around” your systems, processes, and procedures. Workarounds are a great place to find insights.
4. Ethnographic research. During our study, “The Culture of Borrowing and Debt: An Ethnographic Approach,” we went into members’ homes and observed saving, spending, and borrowing habits. Watching what people in their natural environments is powerful.
5. Create a process. What gets measured gets done. How many insights do you want to gather each month? Who will be responsible for gathering them? When will they be discussed?
It seems counterintuitive to create structure around innovation, but it works.
Let us know what you find as you gather insights. If all credit unions get stronger at understanding the challenges of consumers and creating new ideas to address those concerns, Main Street Americans win—and so do credit unions.
Insights. Member-centric insights are what credit unions need.
Enjoy a complimentary download of “The Culture of Borrowing and Debt: An Ethnographic Approach” here.