Small Leaps of Innovation

When I graduated from Filene’s i3 program in September, I remember being a little sad it was over. My tenure in that program created some of the greatest friendships I’ve experienced in my career.  There’s just something about innovating a new product, playing an entreprenurial role, and volunteering to do something that impacts the greater good of our movement that creates a bond that’s tough to achieve from a conference or even coworkers from within your organization. I’d recommend that experience to anyone who has a yearning to make a difference.

Since I left my credit union in April, I’ve had the priviledge to play a new role with the Filene Research Institute in their innovation lab.  I’ve been able to observe projects come in and out of the lab and even help shape a couple.  It’s amazing to see how innovation comes alive through Filene.  While i3 is one piece, they are constantly scanning the landscape to seek out new ideas and products that can help the future of the credit union system. It’s fascinating to witness and learn from people like Denise Gabel who have a true passion for innovation. However, there’s special meaning when one of your original team projects gets a little space in the Filene Lab.

I’ve learned that it takes much more than a good idea.  It takes passion, ownership and sometimes a leap of faith to see it come together.  And while we all want to hit a home run with the big idea, sometimes its those small, incremental innovations that makes the biggest impact.  Ideas like Debt in Focus and the Savings Revolution do just that.  They build on existing ideas and make our movement stronger.

I’m excited to say that one little innovation made its way into the innovation lab and ironically by its namesake is taking “The Leap“.  It won’t revolutionize the credit union system, nor will it be a savior to this year’s business plan. But it solves a problem and enhances good business strategy.

When you get time, check out The Leap and the fun promotional video that goes with it. More importantly, keep pushing your credit union take its own {small leaps of innovation}.

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True CU Pioneers

Nine months ago I sat in a small credit union office in the alluring mountains of West Virginia inspired by 3 young, brave souls. They had a vision to revolutionize their credit union so it could live up to its true potential. The task was monumental and the challenges seemed overwhelming, but I listened to their dream, laughed at their stories, and soaked in their passion. I was weeks away from leaving my credit union job to pursue my calling to assist credit unions dream these dreams.

The credit union lost their CEO the week prior to my arrival alongside the myriad of challenges that plagues our movement from consistency to culture. I remember the knot in my stomach as I stood before a packed room of uneasy Board members, scared staff, and these 3 resolute, bright-eyed visionaries who never blinked as I told my story.

This past Monday I teared up as I walked into this “little credit union that could” and stared at a large compass that had been painted on the ceiling of this unique circular building. Transformed completely from the inside out, the dream of these 3 young visionaries came alive.

It took nine months to rediscover their roots, build culture around them and choose the right CEO who would lead them there. They charted an innovative strategy bringing it all to life through a consistent and unique identity.

Perhaps its an omen that the name of this credit union is Pioneer and this soul-searching journey came to life on Martin Luther King Day because I believe it is the pioneering spirit of these passionate marketeers that fueled this amazing transformation.  As the great Dr. said himself, {Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.} Note that these young women didn’t sit at the top of their organizational chart nor did they wait until new management told them what to do. Instead they dreamed big, made it happen, and doubled loan volume to boot.

Cheers to you Pioneer. Cheers to Lisa, Shannon and Lori for your vision and courage. Thanks for being my first credit union client, and thanks for reaffirming to me there is hope in spite of enormous challenges.  It was a privilege and an honor to ride alongside true pioneers at work.

Check out their launch video and their uber cool new website and identity (Brand built in partnership between gira{ph} and iDiz, Inc.).

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Get Tacky and Stick

One of my most cherished holiday traditions is to travel around and gawk at tacky lights.  There’s something about thousands of flickering lights haphazardly scattered over a quiet suburban yard combined with a cocktail of inflatable santas, plastic reindeer, sprinkled with years of eclectic christmas clutter that warms my heart. We stop at each one, applaud the amount of time it took to assemble the cheerful scene, debate the amount of the electric bill, and argue over which is our favorite based on merits of tacky and tasteless. It’s also contagious. Once one house vomits Christmas cheer on the lawn, the Joneses down the street catch the holiday bug and next thing you know there’s a whole street infected with dueling tacky.

As a marketer, I can’t help but think of the creative sponsorship possibility here. Hundreds of people pass by these houses each night. There’s a screaming opportunity for a glowing sign in the yard: Thank you to ABC Credit Union for making this possible by paying our electric bill. It would even make a fun contest where participants get their electric bill paid during the holidays.

Who gets the most traffic? It isn’t the house with the candles nestled safely in the windows or the grazing white reindeer. It’s the one that gets a cherry picker to put the Grinch at the top of the tree and find a way to spell Merry Christmas on their roof so airplanes flying overhead can enjoy the cheer. It’s the wackiest, the tasteless, and the ones that go to the edge that garner thousands of on-lookers over the holidays. Anything else seems ho hum after you’ve seen a home’s lights synchronized to music played on its own radio frequency.

As you move into 2011, how can you orchestrate something remarkable that {inspires people to talk}:

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Deserving of Great Loyalty {Video}

“The credit union movement. It is a great movement, worthy of great deeds, deserving of great loyalty” – Ed Filene

Last week’s CU WaterCooler Symposium in Indiana was proof that while the credit union system is experiencing epic challenges, the spirit of our founding fathers is still alive.

As I watched Matt Davis and Tim McAlpine, two passionate credit union leaders and friends lead two amazing days, I was reminded of another great Canadian / American duo:  Ed Filene and Alphonse Desjardins were progressive thought-leaders and friends who believed the credit union ideal was {worthy of a loyal push}.

They brought ideas from outside the American perspective that challenged the status quo and started a movement.

I believe they would be proud that for two days  we were a movement again, one that continues to challenge itself and is still deserving of great loyalty.

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Commercial Break (Yes, another Video)

And we pause also for this commercial {break}. (Thank you James Robert Lay!)

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Halt Please (Video)

Just say no to {design} by committee.

This public service announcement has been brought to you on behalf of all marketing and creative professionals.

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WTH Wednesday

WTH.  That pretty much sums up last weekend’s news. From The Wall Street Journal to The Huffington Post,  the gross misperceptions of a credit union “bailout” are nauseating.

To make matters worse, it’s clear when you read through the comments of these articles that consumers are largely misguided and confused.  So, it’s time to call a special “WTH Wednesday” and gather around the CU Watercooler to figure out how we can do better.

Join some of the CU WaterCooler gang along with Frank Diekman of the CU Journal today at 4pm Eastern Time.  Then again on Monday at 1pm Eastern with Sarah Cooke of the CU Times.  We’ll discuss the latest action of the NCUA and what that means for credit unions moving forward.

Can credit unions turn this into an opportunity to tell {our story}?

And here’s a shoutout to the credit union lovin’ folks at Foolproof who put this article and video together for CU’s to use. Thanks, Foolproof!

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