By Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional
Introduce the topic of innovation and, often, thoughts and discussions result in a journey along the path of determining what the next groundbreaking, irreplaceable, home-run-hitting product or service is best for your members or processes. However, the largest part of the tangible worth of innovation (and its culture) lies in imitation (see “Defend Your Research: Imitation is More Valuable than Innovation,” Harvard Business Review, April 2010). For that reason, while dreaming up the next iPad (a much better version of the then and already existing tablet PC); don’t overlook making standing ways of doing business a little better, and a part of your common culture. Here’s how.
Ask hard-hitting questions: What’s working, and what might work better? It’s easy to become self-satisfied, especially when the cash is flowing and the members are buying. Ultimately, your competition figures out your lead and adds a wrinkle to your winning ways. Ask college football’s spread offenses. But, your members change, as do their expectations. What makes your member’s dealings with you easier, more effective, and of greater value? Does a small wrinkle in your delivery keep you winning?
Don’t let one department hold sway. Innovation is an enterprise-wide function; it should encompass the entire enterprise. Say you create a team tasked with dreaming, designing, and determining innovative products, services, and processes. Chances are each innovation will affect sales, service, operations, technology, compliance, human resources, and more. Involve staff members from affected departments to determine the enterprise-wide effects of original ideas. If the only people discussing sales are from Sales, then Sales gets what Sales wants. Decisions moving forward may be the same; however including a comprehensive selection of professionals helps ensure the entire organization engages in your credit union’s progress.
Pay and acknowledge for performance. This one’s easy: help the company move forward, get rewarded. It might be a cash bonus, mini vacation, public celebration, or personal time off. Whatever the reward is, the message is clear: take an active role in helping your credit union change for the better and you will benefit.
Don’t cold-shoulder the innovators. Innovation is oohs, ahhs, grins, and giggles until it means change. Then, it’s “your idea.” If the case for innovation has been made, then the innovators need championing. They need executive backing. They need managerial buy-in. They need staff commitment. This begins with leadership dedicated to a culture of innovation and displeased with a philosophy of contentment.
Let your front line leaders help lead innovation. It may well be that only some front line leaders are part of your innovative thinkers; but, all of your front line will be a part of your implementation. Once an idea is ready to roll, ask your front line leaders how they might see it best working at their level. They will offer practical insights, feel a part of the innovation process, and help you get buy-in from those who implement.
Innovation is more than a corporate value, core competency, or strategic objective. Innovation is: an essential element of corporate culture; a mandatory feature of professional performance; and, a vital component of day-by-day-create-and-compete measures. As swiftly as the world of business is shifting, your members are counting on you to design, develop, and deliver imaginative and resourceful products and services to better their lives and businesses.
© 2012 by Jeff Rendel. All rights reserved.
Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with financial services providers that want elite results in leadership, sales, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 financial institutions and their business partners.