Organizations frequently name “innovation” as a key ingredient in their secret sauce for success.

Organizations frequently name “innovation” as a key ingredient in their secret sauce for success. In fact, research studying CEOs across the world found 64 percent of those surveyed believe innovation and operational effectiveness are equally important to a company’s success. This seems to indicate an increasing strategic interest in developing innovation cultures.

In its truest sense, an innovation culture is a work environment fostering unorthodox thinking and application. Establishing such a culture requires time, effort and, above all, leadership that supports it. Beyond that, there are a few other important elements for credit unions to consider.

  • Challenging the norm. Credit unions sticking to the status quo quickly stifle any possibility of innovation. They should instead embrace change and challenge processes, even those that are working. Asking questions such as, “How could this be better than it is today?” can have the power to spark creativity.
  • Facilitating collaboration. The old adage “Two heads are better than one” continues to ring true in the case of innovation. Next-level ideas are more likely to result from team ideation sessions than they are from individual reflection. “Working in a vacuum is not conducive to innovation,” said Jill DeNiro, Chief People Officer at CO-OP Financial Services. “When individuals with different viewpoints and ways of thinking come together, they open the door to those ‘aha’ moments that can transform organizations.”
  • Encouraging discovery. Member data offers a treasure trove of insights and ideas. By cultivating and analyzing rich data libraries, credit unions have access to a fuller picture of the members they serve. Conducting surveys and interviews can also help deepen member knowledge. Credit unions should instill a sense of curiosity in their employees, compelling them to dive into member data and attain a new level of understanding.
  • Seeking inspiration outside the industry. “Consumers aren’t just benchmarking credit unions against other financial institutions,” said Karen Webster, CEO of Market Platform Dynamics, in a recent presentation at THINK 17. “They’re benchmarking against all their digital experiences, including Facebook and Amazon.” To transform digitally and create exceptional member experiences, credit unions would do well to consider how other organizations win (and maintain) loyalty.
  • Supporting failure. Although it can be daunting, failure is not always the enemy. In fact, it serves a distinct purpose. “Fail smart to innovate fast,” noted Michelle McKenna-Doyle, Senior Vice President and CIO of the National Football League, at THINK 17. “Get to the learnings with minimal cost and time. Share learnings throughout the organization.” By accepting and learning from failure, credit unions can enhance the speed of innovation and become more agile.
  • Trying new schools of thought. Sometimes a credit union’s tried-and-true innovation tactics fall short of achieving the desired results. That’s where testing out different schools of thought can help. Design thinking is a methodology CO-OP uses to find creative and desirable solutions. This five-step process encourages quick experimentation and product iteration for the best results.
  • Taking a forward-thinking approach. While credit unions consider members’ present needs for products and services, they should also be looking ahead. McKenna-Doyle noted, “It’s important that we know not only what our fans want today but what they will want in the future.” Being proactive in their innovation efforts helps credit unions meet members’ future needs before they even recognize they have those needs.

When credit union employees, members and strategic partners feel included in innovation efforts, the likelihood those efforts will take off increases. Such co-creation tactics facilitate solution ownership among key stakeholders, ultimately driving adoption. While there may be no single secret to successful innovation, CO-OP and its credit union partners are making great strides in the realm of co-creation.

For more insights shared at THINK 17, access these key takeaways.