Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where Has All The Creativity Gone? [Open Source CU]

Creativity, despite being one of the things that people cite as the reason they love their job, is one of the hardest things to accomplish in a typical financial institution. So many executives and marketing directors get so caught up in the ROI and the numbers that creativity gets lost in the background.

Now, this isn’t meant to fault those people. Tracking the effectiveness of a marketing campaign is essential to their position. What if you could get some help?

When I say “get some help” you might reply, “We don’t have the budget to hire on a bunch of new marketing people!” Let me offer an idea that might kill several birds with one stone.

Innovate Your Institution

The hierarchal structure of most financial institutions makes it very difficult for lower level employees (Tellers and MSR’s) to bring up ideas. Typically the proper channel of communication ends up smothering the idea as unusable, or it gets lost before it makes it to somebody who might care.

Front line staff, MSR’s, and Loan Reps are the people who have the most contact with your member base. Why shouldn’t their ideas be considered just as highly as anyone else’s…if not more? They may see an opportunity where nobody else does.

There is so much creative power located in your teller, member service, and loan departments that almost never sees the light of day. What might come out of this collective group if given the opportunity to throw out ideas in a community environment, bounce them around, and create something of value?

Give people the opportunity to be creative and you’ll find a fountain of unique, interesting, and valuable ideas for products or processes that might have never come to light.

Retain Your Valued Employees

If you are looking to retain employees (tellers especially) there needs to be a sense that their position offers something of value to the whole, especially when trying to retain younger, GenY employees. Giving people, regardless of position or “silo”, the sense that what they have to say makes a difference can be very powerful.

Create a wiki, or discussion board, anything that gives people the opportunity to discus new ideas or concepts in an environment that is free from the fear of rejection. So often people are afraid to share because they feel that their idea will be shot down from the get-go and the possibility of humiliation makes them shy away from unleashing their creativity.

Create an environment that is open, collaborative, and free from this fear and you might just end up with a great source for creativity within your institution.

Your next question might be, “Well how do we get these people to come up with ideas? Do they really care enough to contribute?”

Create Evangelists

Credit Unions have a built in advantage when it comes to encouraging this kind of participation. There is an underlying cause behind credit unions that goes way beyond gaining profit.

I recently made a trip to BarCampBank New England on April 5th. It was held at America’s Credit Union Museum and it has inspired me beyond words. Seeing how it all started has given me new direction, inspiration, and dedication to my work at Maine State Credit Union.

The best way to get people excited about working at a credit union is to tell them the story. Show them what a credit union really is, what it stands for, and why it started in the first place. People find it much easier to get behind a cause than just a company. Share with them the powerful message behind their job. Show them the meaning of the institution and the movement as a whole and they might just be inspired to help move it along. It happened to me, it can happen to anybody.

Create a place for collaborative brainstorming, get people motivated behind the cause, and allow them to express ideas in an open environment where their say counts and you’ll end up with credit union evangelists…who just so happen to work on your teller line.

I originally wrote this as a guest post on the awesome blog OpenSourceCU, Check 'em out!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. After working for a credit union for 2 years, (after being a securities writer for 10 years) CUs have so much potential to really be more than a financial institution. Staff at all levels can help with creativity. Some of the best ideas come from the people helping members every day.

ROI is still important. I know alot of marketing directors that have little time to do ROI and creativty. In small credit unions, they do everything. I've installed an ATM, did business development, community relations and even helped total checks on a busy Friday.

Marketing directors need help and they need to be inspired. Keep writing...your ideas are will help Maine CUs grow.

Debra Trautman

Ron Bensley, Jr. said...

Andy: wonderful blog post! Too many organizations in our world squash the creativity and initiative which is a natural part of most human beings.

It's an honor to find out about your blog from OSCU.

Andy said...

Thanks for the comments.

Deb, I agree 100% tracking ROI on a campaign is incredibly important. Otherwise you'd never know if something was flopping or turning a profit. Employees of small CU's have to wear so many hats that its hard to have the time to be creative. Excellent point. I'd love to see a credit union truly rally as a creative whole.

Ron, Thanks for the comment. Glad you're hear :). Creativity is part of everybody, sometimes it just gets lost behind the noise of everyday work.