Test Tube

YouTube has launched Test Tube, their new “Idea Incubator” site, similar to Google Labs. (Imagine that.)

CU’s so often put up their website and call the project finished, only making changes when they add products or promotions.

From Karl Long on his blog, Experience Curve:

“For many years web design was an unnatural paring of graphic design, software design and product design, all of these disciplines assumed that there was an endpoint that was “done”. We’re going to build the site, like we’re going to build a monolith, in some cases monument that would stand for long time and would work just as designed.”

See Karl’s full post here.


Some people have a hard time believing that the words beta and money can go together, but I think if a CU has a clear e-channel vision, providing “sneak peeks” in beta form to select web users would get our members excited. And it’d tell us early about expected adoption rates and gather valuable feedback from members.

Stealth Innovation & ROWE

I learned a new term tonight, the title of this post, “Stealth Innovation”. I almost laughed out loud I loved it so much. I was reading this article by Michelle Conlin of business week about Best Buy (BBY) “Smashing the clock”. It’s a must read.

Best Buy is dropping the normal 40 hour week for corporate, and soon to be retail, employees. Want to answer email while hunting? Work for Best Buy. How about getting “paid” for following the Dave Matthews Band around? Sign me up!

Here’s a great summary quote of what Best Buy is doing:

“The nation’s leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical–if risky–experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for “results-only work environment,” seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.”

This is also where “stealth innovation” comes in. For fear of having the idea squashed, many managers experimented with the technique, before having it come from the top down. Pretty soon, others from outside the departments that started it want in. And after awhile, there became such a following that it was a natural migration for the company.

I love the term stealth innovation because a lot of initiatives at CU’s, at least our CU, start off very stealthy and at the grassroots level. Sometimes you need to get the rubber band pulled way back and the energy built up before you get the official OK to let the slingshot fly.

America First CU & CU Give

I ran across America First CU today and they seem to know what’s going on. It is one of the better looking CU websites I’ve seen lately (although html and css don’t validate) and the navigation is super easy. They use flash excellently and their ads look amazing. (Check out their press release ads here.)

In addition to having a super site, they are participating with Filene and the CUGive project along with a local competitor here in Oregon, Selco Community CU. CUGive enables your credit union members to volunteer with local charities and other organizations by donating their time.

I love this idea from Filene because it gets to the heart of what credit unions should be about: helping members. Whether is the credit union itself or other members, CU’s exist to benefit all who belong. I applaud Filene, America First, and Selco for taking this wonderfully innovative approach to community service.

GonzoBanker and the BAI conference

Cruising through Terence Roche & Steve Williams article about the BAI conference this past week and came across this wonderful little nugget in their post:

The most interesting thing to watch will be if banks (insert CU’s here) can really let go. Are we really serious about letting the front line drive the place, or will our industry just slip back to aimlessly giving compliments to Starbucks and Steve Jobs?

Read the full GonzoBanker post here.


Everyone in the online community and in some of the conferences around the country have been talking about member-centric this and movement vs industry that. All I’m seeing is talk. CU’s like to think innovatively, but the execution seems pretty poor. I’m going to an little seminar shortly called “Expertise – The Innovation Killer”. I never would have thought expertise is bad, but in my personal experience, it is the “experts” that hold back the innovation in our industry.

How many experts to you have in your CU (or company)?

where do ideas come from?

I’m always amazed about where I get ideas for new products/management ideas/etc. My fiancee seems to be an incredible source. Not only does she tell me when something sucks, but if I can sell her an idea and she likes it, I know I’m on to something.

Read, listen, chat, socialize, learn. You’ll be surprised where innovation and motivation can come from. Keep that tablet by your bed. You’ll never know when that great idea will come.

Gaining some efficiency (and cross sales!)

I see everyone’s had a nice little vacation this past week. Not too much action in the CU blogging world! But last week was a busy one for me!

Just last week, I put the final touches (I guess I’m actually just getting started now) on our new “New Account Process”. I just got the CEO to sign off on our new contract with Andera, a FiServ company that specializes in providing online membership and share account opening. Not only will our FSR’s no longer have to do triplicate entry to open a new membership anymore, it’ll take the time down from over 30 minutes to about 10 minutes! Now with all of that extra time, our FSR’s will be able to do some more effective cross selling because they’ll have the potential member’s credit report in front of them to!!

AND we are now going to be able to full open, and fund, new accounts online!! How cool is that! Now I just have to figure out how to get the high-yielding savings account thing figured out. But I think I’m almost there……..

The changing times

“My grandma belongs to that credit union” is something I frequently hear. CU’s do a great job of serving their current, aging members. But we are going to have to change our focus very soon to providing services to our younger members. To quote Debbie Matz from the Board of the NCUA:

“Members age 18-24, who are about to enter their prime borrowing years, represent only 5% of adult credit union members. It is unnerving that more than half of all adult credit union members have aged beyond their prime borrowing years and there are very few young members to replace these aging members.”
http://www.ncua.gov/news/press_releases/2005/NR05-0422.htm

CU’s need to change their mindset and starting making decisions for their future. We need not only to get these new members, but have products that fit their needs, a brand that they can associate with, and a way to provide them with greater financial opportunities.

Innovation and CU Products

After reading the article about Herman Miller in the most recent issue of Fast Company, I came away with a quote:

“…suggests that companies aim their innovation efforts at the jobs customers need to get done, rather than incrementally improving products they already produce.” — Christensen

I believe this is one huge area of opportunity for CU’s in product design innovation. Ideo and Intuit (makers of Quicken and Quickbooks) observe their customers using their products. I think too many FI’s simply re-design existing programs they have to better fit what their market is offering. Note the current rush of people talking about and trying to implement “Keep the Change” or “Change is Good” programs, discussions of the “One” account and other innovative ideas. While these ideas, at their building blocks, are fairly basic redesigns of existing products, innovative thinkers looked at how people used their accounts, or wanted their accounts to work, and designed stellar products to meet those needs.

CU’s need to follow the same path. Listen to your members and design for what they want and how they use your products.