Valentine’s Day – Chinese New Year – 3rd day of the Olympics

All the Nikon equipment is getting ready and charged up for the trek downtown. There should be a huge crowd in Vancouver today as the sun is shining and it is a typical winter (but really early spring) day here. Looking outside you begin to think ‘Lawnmover’. This is Canada as was expressed during the opening Olympic ceremonies. Of the 5 of us traveling downtown 2 are born in Canada, 1 is born in Canada but is Irish, another is born in Germany and Canadian and one is born in Denmark and is still Danish. Even amongst one’s friends and relatives you can’t be removed from the Canadian multiculturalism. There is something special about that and I think we finally have told the world we aren’t afraid of celebrating who we are. So Gung Ho Fat Choy 恭 喜 發 財, Happy Valentine’s Day and have a great Olympics, eh?

What small credit unions must have – the 3i’s

Over the past few days I have had a number of long discussions with other credit unions and credit union suppliers about where our system is headed and what the challenges are.

First it seems important to realize that though we all call ourselves credit unions there is a difference behind the scenes. There are the large credit unions and the small credit unions. For the most part the size of the credit union is a differentiator in more ways than we might think.

Small credit unions must focus and understand who they are in their marketplace and what they mean to their members. With any organization of limited resources, use of resources must be dictated by need. That use of resources needs to be structured under the credit unions vision both now and for the future. They key to initiate and accomplish the vision is the ability to hold and keep a strong culture based on what I would call the 3 i’s. [Apologies to the Filene Institute for any confusion with their i3 program] Those 3 important i’s are:

Independence. This would mean that the credit union values and maintains its own sense of who it is and how it fits into the cooperative system. It means that by being independent it is accountable and responsible for its own decisions. I think credit unions have become lazy in not attempting to understand vital areas of their operation, specifically technology. They rely on the advice of others and haven’t taken the time to realize the extent and future challenges that may be in store for them when they make decisions about a banking system or switch provider without sound evidence. Knowledge starts first from admitting ones ignorance. The beauty of the credit union system is that most credit unions are willing to share any information if one begins at that humble position.

Innovation. This means keeping a key strategy that smallness brings, the ability to turn on a dime when it comes to creating and producing a product or service. When you see innovation as a strategic weapon you will be amazed at the possibilities available. You turn from the depressing “we can’t do that” to the positive “why can’t we do that”. It is very powerful when your energies are used in developing things your member wants instead of cloning what others already have.

Integrity. No credit union will last when it neglects this aspect of who they are. You cannot operate in a healthy fashion with your members or in the marketplace without this. The trust that you have will disappear when you forsake a culture established on having integrity. Sometimes it can be painful but whatever the loss, the gain is usually magnified by remaining true to who you are.

There are large credit unions that also have these attributes in their culture but because of their size they may not have them woven into their everyday fabric as much as a smaller credit union. Sometimes size diminishes the possibility of such. Small credit unions have less of an internal political life and because of this tend to approach problems differently within the credit union system. You can solve problems easily when the operational issues are solved. It becomes very difficult to finalize anything when politics become so dominant.

The Olympics start tomorrow

I haven’t been a big fan of the Olympics or maybe I should say I haven’t been a big fan of the IOC since the Mexican Games in 1968. (the Plaza de las Tres Culturas was the scene of the Tlatelolco massacre). Why any government or organization puts itself into that type of circumstance is puzzling. Then the IOC’s ban on blogging. The legalism of the IOC has certainly expanded and the only purpose that seems to be apparent is the need to protect the IOC and the corporate sponsor. Lost in all of this is the athletes. We have seen so many articles about everything but the athletes. It is now refreshing to be able to see something different and after tomorrow all of this corporate noise will become secondary.

For those that want the Olympics in their hometown good luck. The end result will be great and most are excited. It took 7 years to get here.

The 2nd Monday in February – a day off

Monday is the day I get off and today is the first day in weeks where nothing, absolutely nothing, was on the calendar as a meeting, appointment, conference call or emerging work to be done. One wonders sometimes what people do on their days off and why it is more important than you think to plan nothing.

When the kids were younger and at home there was always the family time. Home was the revolving center and the noise and energy was its heartbeat. It would be nice to repeat those eventful days. Then the kids move on and one should start thinking of what you plan to do. Sure you can always work. The in-basket and email in-folder is bottomless. Then there are the library of books, too many to count, that would be great to finish. And the list goes on.

It is important that sometimes you don’t need a planned day, that it can be moments of serendipity. Today I found a real great song that will be played dozens of time. There is a kids video “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” that I need to watch. (that is somewhat work related…) and getting back to reading a bit of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon. The sun is also out with the blue sky inviting me to a walk on the mountain. Some say the internet is a time waster. When you start following those items that you have an interest in, I really can’t see that as wasting time. If we had a limited capacity to learn then it could be considered wasting time. So far there haven’t been too many people that have had to shut down their intellectual curiosity for anything other than a lack of time. The best reason of all to be serendipitous are the words of Sandy Denny’s song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes“.