Diana Kander
“Making yourself accountable is the secret to hitting your goals," says author Diana Kander.

Apply 4 questions to every project

'The longer you wait to try, the longer you wait to learn.'

November 5, 2019

If your credit union is wildly successful, be very worried. That’s when complacency sets in, says Diana Kander, author of “The Curiosity Muscle."

“Every dollar you make is a reason not to change,” says Kander, who addressed the 2019 CUNA Lending Council Conference. “Hubris born of success makes us complacent. I want to make you paranoid—and much more curious.

“Curiosity is the antidote to hubris.”

Kander says applying four questions to every project will create a significant impact in your organization:

1. How will you find your blind spots?

“You walk around every day with information that’s either incomplete or not true,” Kander says. “That’s a blind spot that’s slowing you down from what you want to accomplish.”

Because people can’t see their own blind spots, finding them requires getting sometimes painful feedback from someone who has already experienced the issue or from those you serve.

“Huge blind spots are part of every initiative we take on,” she says. “Understanding what they are will help us solve the problem much faster.”

Kander does a blind spot gut check every six months. “If I haven’t heard anything surprising or painful, I know I have blind spots.”

2. What can you try?

Amazon is successful because it experiments constantly, Kander says.

Many companies avoid experimenting because they fear failure, she says. “But if you don’t try, you don’t learn anything. The longer you wait to try, the longer you wait to learn. You can’t afford to do that.”

3. How will you know if it’s not working?

Kander calls programs that take more effort than the value they create “zombie projects.”

While Amazon is one of the world’s most successful companies, it has had its share of these failures, Kander says, citing the Fire phone, Amazon Local, Amazon Wallet, and other ventures that didn’t pan out.

“[Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person. He’s not a genius—he has institutionalized how to find zombie projects,” she says. “Amazon is great at shutting down what’s not working.

“All companies have committees for creating new products, but they don’t have them for shutting projects down.”

She advises implementing “failure metrics” so companies know when to exit efforts that aren’t working.

4. Who will hold you accountable?

A lack of accountability is the top reason people fail, Kander says.

“The more success you have in an organization, the less accountability you have,” she says. “Making yourself accountable is the secret to hitting your goals.”

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