Friday, March 28, 2008

Only One More Week!


One week until BarCampBank New England! I haven't been this excited for something since getting a PS2 for Christmas!

It's being held on the site of the first credit union in the USA. What better place to sit down with some of the people who are changing the credit union movement to brainstorm, discuss, debate, and inform than at America's Credit Union Museum.

I'm really excited to be able to meet some of the big dogs in the blogotwittershpere such as Morriss Partee, Ron Shevlin, Ginny Brady and Gene Blishen as well as some cool people from Andera and Geezeo.

A BarCamp is like no other conference you've ever attended. It offers an opportunity to speak with people rather than be spoken to. It offers the opportunity to bounce ideas around, collaborate, and create relationships with people who are shaping the way the industry will look in the coming years.

If you have the chance (there's still time to sign up!) take the opportunity to come to Manchester on April 5th for what promises to be an incredible experience.

Have an awesome weekend everybody, I hope to see you all next weekend in Manchester, NH.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Are You Experienced?

The head of the pack, as the marathon starts. Second annual Salt Lake City Marathon. Photo by Trent Nelson; 4.23.2005

The race is on. Nearly every credit union, bank, and business is chasing after a new demographic. We all see the importance of capturing the attention of the 70 million members of generation Y. Just like the Boston Marathon, this isn’t a race to enter unprepared.

The way generation Y thinks about business, communication, and life in general is completely different than even the Gen-X-ers who preceded them. This is leaving many business leaders scratching their heads, wondering how to reach this new group of individuals.

The world of web 2.0 is a daunting thing from the outside. It is nearly impossible to describe to somebody who has never used Twitter, Facebook, or Wikipedia what exactly they are. Like the Matrix, nobody can be told what it is. You have to see it for yourself.

matrix morpheus red blue pill_44

So, what does it take to enter this new space? In a single word: experience.

To truly understand how the world of the social internet works you have to experience it. As daunting as the space might look from the outside, its much simpler to get involved than you might think.

Most social sites require little more than an email address to get started. The best way to find out what this whole web 2.0 thing is all about is to sign up on something like Facebook or Twitter. Enter the conversation. Explore menus, applications, and groups. Watch how things go down. It’s really not as scary as it seems.

The thing with social networks is that from the outside they seem incomprehensibly large. Once you enter the space and start to see how it functions though, it becomes apparent that what you once saw as a massive collection of people is really divided up into countless, smaller social circles.

It’s almost like walking into the lunch room at high school as the new kid. At first it seems daunting. It looks like a giant mass of people with no order, structure, or division. Once you sit down, talk to people, and find the people you want to talk to, the social circles start to become apparent. No longer is the lunch room a giant mass of people, but a collection of smaller, coherent circles.

The best advice I can give to a credit union looking to enter the world of web 2.0 is, get involved personally. Enter the space as an individual. Post pictures you have, search out old schoolmates and friends who might already be there. Find the familiar faces and get used to how the space works. Start a conversation. The great thing about social networking is that, on a personal level, there really isn’t a “wrong way” to go about things. So go ahead...take the red pill, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

As a side note, one of our board members, Lee Cabana, has recently set up his own Facebook account. Check him out and say hi!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are You Jamming

In my last post, I talked about creating an open environment for creativity. I'd like to go into more detail by outlining what I consider to be an ideal creative environment using a real world example.

I first took an interest in drums when I saw a drum corp marching during a 4th of July parade when I was very young. I started playing in 4th grade and got my first full set when I was a freshman in high school.


When I was 14 my friend Andy and I started a band called Chiasmus with a couple other guys. It was in this band that I believe I learned the most about fostering creativity.

Between practices we would all come up with vague ideas for chord progressions, rhythms, bass lines, etc. They usually started as a single riff or rhythm. When we got together for practice, it would start with somebody presenting (playing) their "idea" to the rest of the band.

The rest of the band would then add parts to this original idea, whatever came to mind. Some things worked, others didn't, but eventually a part would always click. Once one part clicked it was always easier to add more and refine the sound.

In the process, the original idea could change. Often the end result sounded only slightly like it did when first played as a vague idea.

So, that's how it went. We would bounce musical ideas back and forth for hours. Eventually we would end up with a structured song without any hierarchal decision making within the band. There wasn't somebody in charge, or a single person who wrote the music. It was a pure collaborative process, musical brainstorming, jamming; whatever you want to call creating in an open environment.

What can we apply to credit unions from this?

In short, we need to Jam more.

True creative flow can't be accomplished without an environment that allows people to freeform ideas, bounce them off others, and refine it into something useable and of value.

This kind of creativity can be accomplished more easily when the process is collaborative. When there is not a fear of being shot down or told the idea will never work. Some of the greatest innovations have come from taking an idea that "would never work" and refining it into something that will.

Within this type of collaborative, open, creative, and worry free environment big ideas can surface. Big ideas that can change your institution and the industry.

P.S. A thanks to Brent Dixon for getting my mind on jamming :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Delegating" Creativity


The world of web 2.0 is all about free exchange of ideas. Places like Everythingcu and banktastic are great examples of this on a large scale. What about on a small scale?

Most institutions are inherently hierarchal in their creative process. It is left on the shoulders of a few high level employees to come up with new products and campaigns. How much easier would it be to allow every person in the institution to have a say in this creative process? To delegate some of the creative "work" to internal resources.

Especially in larger credit unions, there is so much untapped creative power sitting on your teller line and in your member services department. Many of these employees either feel intimidated by bringing ideas and opinions directly to the President or Vice President, or they simply just don't have the time to set aside a meeting and work out ideas.

I believe there is a solution, and it lies in current computing tech. How much easier would it be to create an environment for creativity if there were a place for everybody to have open discussion and idea exchange, all without leaving their desks.

Implement an intranet for all employees that integrates some type of message board, or even better, blogging software. Create a place that employees can share their ideas for the institution when they have a few spare minutes. Instead of going through the trouble of setting up a meeting with "important" people and taking time away from their desk and leaving a department short handed, employees could post their ideas and have discussions within this forum with these higher level execs. Think of it like a transparent, two way suggestion box.

Something like this could also be a great influence on getting and keeping younger employees. As I stated in this post, Gen-Y employees feel like they should have a chance to change things right off the bat. We have grown up in a culture of change. We love feeling like we make a difference. What better way to encourage this than by creating an open environment internally for these employees to express how they think things should change.

Creating an open environment for change and creativity can help you institution stay relevant, as well as keep your employees happy and feeling like they make a difference no matter what level position they hold. Get people involved at a higher level of the credit union movement and you just might end up with evangelists instead of employees.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Very Small Business

I've always been interested in business. It probably ranks 3rd on my list of interests, right behind music and computers. My first foray into "very small business" was a lemonade stand my brother and I set up just outside my house when I was around 11 or 12. Not exactly worthy of being listed on the NYSE, but hey, I tried.

Several of my friends also attempted their own money making schemes as kids. These included mowing lawns, shoveling show, raking leaves, etc. All the cliche "very small businesses" we ran when we were young and looking for a few bucks.

This question is directed at everyone, but especially to those of you that have kids around 8-14. Do kids still do this stuff? Are there still groups of early teens/tweens that work for their summer spending money?

The reason I ask is because I had an idea while laying in bed with the flu. What if the credit union struck up a relationship with a few middle schools in the local area? We could run a small class on starting one of these little summer businesses. Teach kids at a younger age the very basics of business. Income, expenses, and profit could all be addressed in a very strait forward way.

Reaching Gen-Y is all about creating a relationship. Helping kids make a few bucks over the summer could be a great way to get your name out there, not only with the students, but with their parents as well.

Its educational, involved, and targeted to an early age, but also dependent on whether or not these kinds of "very small businesses" still happen. So, help me out, is this something that could work or is the "very small business" a relic of the past?