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Innovation is risky but healthy

June 16, 2008

Doug has presented an excellent post about CUs and innovation. But as I commented there is another side.

First I am not saying that all 3rd level CU organizations or 3rd party suppliers fit this pattern. There are a number of organizations and people within these organizations that get it. But in large part most fit the same pattern — keep it comfortable and maintain the status quo.

That pattern and the underlying mantra of most credit unions that their brand is sacrosanct creates the problem for innovation. Please don’t ask me for the answer on this one as I don’t have it. It is almost like the system governs the outcome and there is no reasonable explanation as to why it continues. Why can’t we work together to a greater degree? Because we have a brand to maintain and maybe some collaborative effort will diminish it. Our competitive edge will erode if it was know our CU competitors were involved. Or when we are at the table trying to collaborate we can’t agree because the brands get in the way. Maybe it would be just too difficult to have to re-build something by having to admit previous failures that were never fixed. Common sense doesn’t event get a chance to exist.

When you have a culture of innovation in your credit union it is risky. There are daily challenges as to why you continue to do things as before. In having this view you constantly challenge not only your CU but everyone else. There is acceptance in that you do have a proper product or service in place but that it could always you a bit of tweaking when you have the time and resources to do it. There is always this impatience and not being completely satsified. There is always the frustration of trying to arrive at the right solutions for your members. There is the fear of failure. There is the consequence of having spent so much time on something to see it not working as you thought. But all of this leads to the healthy.

You don’t do anything for the recognition but you do it to serve the members better and to make the staff’s daily routine easier and less mundane. You do it from an open source attitude. If another CU can use what you have and make it better isn’t that something better for all of us? You learn from the mistakes because you are willing to take the risk to make mistakes. You always move forward from a position of the positive. The health of your CU is certainly measured by it’s financial performance. There are also some subjective measures such as what have you produced for the members that they can use and value? Cloning a free checking or youth account doesn’t count. Challenging the status quo both inside and outside the CU is the starting point. Asking a simple 3 letter question is maybe the best way to start. “Why?”

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