to try, test, experience, prove

That is the definition of experiri (in Latin) and it also represents the first set of product offerings from CU Innovators.

Frequently, projects we’re working on for clients create discussions around solutions that are missing from the credit union industry. Other times, problems not associated with our current projects are brought up by clients as a “wouldn’t it be nice if” kind of thing. We’re trying to fix some of those “things”.

experiri is our outlet to test new ideas, new business models, and other things we think could help the credit union industry. It is easy to talk about innovation in credit unions, but it is a whole other thing to actually encourage people to try. So experiri is our stake in the ground. This is our corner of the innovative industry that credit unions could be.

Our first product, slated to be available next week, is technology related and aims to make credit union data readily available to be “mashed-up” into online applications, market research, and other tools for credit unions. Our second product, due for release in May, is in the social media space, and we’ll give you a hint: Christopher Morriss just mentioned this as a pain point for him on Twitter.

Stay tuned for more information!

Change of venue

Back in September, Nexcentri, the CUSO I worked for out of Tampa, and I parted ways. Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to take some time off with our new baby, Mason, as well as experiment a bit with the direction that I wanted to take my career. I’m torn between the camaraderie and sense of family when working at a credit union or CUSO and the flexibility and opportunity for success, or failure, that working for yourself can bring. Ultimately, I’ve satisfied the entrepreneurial cravings within and decided to give the credit union industry something it really needs: another consultant.

I know, I know, we need another consultant telling credit unions what they need to do like credit unions need another impairment.  However, I’m focused on two very specific niches that are often overlooked.

The first niche is centered around idea development within credit unions and CUSO’s. I’ve spoken with many credit unions over the years and they basically fall into two categories, one that needs some help with generating innovative ideas and another that has many innovative ideas, but can’t give them the attention they deserve.  Basically, I’m helping grow (or plant) ideas from their infancy and assisting them into adulthood. Currently, I’m helping a CUSO on the east coast take an idea they’ve been brewing up for the better part of a year and develop it into a full fledged product that they will offer their customers. Everything from financial analysis and models to market research to delivery to the customer.

The second overlooked niche is in regards to conferences. We all love BarCampBank’s and believe that they would be greatly beneficial for the credit union industry to experience, but there has been no solid effort put forth to introduce the broad industry to them. I aim to fix that problem with The CUIR. The Credit Union Innovators Roundtable, The CUIR, will bring BarCampBank/unconferences to the credit union industry and introduce it on a larger scale. Directed towards leagues, associations, boards, and trade groups, The CUIR is a conference service that meeting organizers can use to bring a new flavor to their event. Imagine if your the annual meeting of your credit union was actually a BarCamp! Hopefully, by introducing the unconference to the credit union industry, we’ll be able encourage more innovation and collaboration, as well as the real key to success, execution.

One of the things that I’ve been harping on lately is the lack of executable concepts that float around the credit union industry. If we truly want credit unions to be successful, we have to give them actionable items that can impact their membership. Those may be ideas for new checking accounts, some new NSF thing, or a new technology product. Whatever the case may be, CU Innovators is here to help credit unions execute.

CU Innovators is currently looking for two more clients, credit unions or CUSO’s, to assist in making their ideas come to fruition.  If you’ve got a nagging idea or project on your plate, get in touch with us on our contact page, hit me up on Twitter,  or you can always try telepathy, but no promises.

United Van Lines wouldn’t move my website cross-country for me, so we’re in the process of moving everything from the Life and Times of a Credit Union Employee over to CU Innovators.  The RSS feed will automatically update, so don’t worry about having to re-subscribe. However, if you are a little anal like me, the new feed is here.  Also, if you are an email subscriber, you’ll be seeing a few changes as well (for the better), so if anything funky happens, let me know!

Face wipes

So maybe I use my wife’s make-up removing face wipes every night.  It is much more convenient than having to wash my face and they work better anyways.  So aside from the fact that I use a feminine product to clean my face, there is an important lesson to be learned here: ethnographic research.

What you say is ethnographic research?  Wikipedia defines ethnography as, “In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a field study or a case report…”  Basically, it means watching your members, or customers, use your product and making determinations about ways to make it better.  I’ve read reports of a large LCD TV manufacturer follow customers home and watch them try to unpack their unwieldy and awkward widescreen LCD or plasma TV’s.  The result?  Rather than taking a TV out of the box, like you do with nearly every other product, you actually take the box off of the TV.  The TV remains sitting on the bottom part of the box and the end user simply pulls the upper part of the box off.  That proved to be much simpler than trying to lift an 80 pound TV out of a box at waist level.

Back to my face wipes.  They are some variety of alcohol-based wipe so there is a small amount of cleansing fluid in the packaging.  But over the course of time, all of the fluid settles to the bottom of the package and the wipes at the top of the package, the ones you actually use, lose some of their moisture.  The result is a product that doesn’t work as good as it should.  The solution is simple, I turn the package upside-down every few days to let the fluid seep back down and remoisten the wipes at the top.  Simple solution for the end user, but how many people actually do that vs how many switch to another brand?

What kind of gyrations do your members go through to get an envelope out of an ATM that only somebody sitting in a lawn chair can reach?  Have you ever watched any of your members try to log in with your MFA product or fill out a deposit slip?  And I don’t mean casually observe.  I mean time them.  Watch how long it takes someone to find that check box that I want to “deposit” funds or how long it takes them to read the statement, “I’m sorry, you are attempting to access your account from an un-authorized computer…”  Sometimes the best thing you can do for your brand and your members’ experience is to simply sit back and watch.  You might be amazed at what you’ll find out.

Lemmings

Credit unions are lemmings.  Nobody ever wants to be the first one to do something.  Then, slowly, as some credit unions adopt the new technology/process/whatever more CU’s start to follow.  Pretty soon it is a mad rush because nobody wants to be the last.

From Wikipedia:

…groups will reach a cliff overlooking the ocean. They will stop until the urge to press on causes them to jump off the cliff and start swimming, sometimes to exhaustion and death. Lemmings are also often pushed into the sea as more and more lemmings arrive at the shore.

We always talk about being innovative but save for a few exceptions, CU’s don’t like change and don’t want to innovate.

NACUSO and Finovate

Hindsight being 20-20, I wish I could have been in two places at once.  We had a MaPS entourage at NACUSO (4 employees and a board member) and we had a great time.  The conference was in the Wynn and very well put together.  Personally, I get more out of the networking opportunities during the days and nights than I do out of the sessions.  NACUSO’s big thing now is the Center for Collaboration and Innovation.  Maybe I’m just being cynical, but it seems many of the large CU’s say they want collaboration but don’t really support that.  They also say they want innovation, but I’ll bet less than 1% of the attendees of NACUSO knew Finovate was going on.

The products and discussions going on at Finovate is where the true innovation currently is in financial services and I feel like so many credit union folks are completely missing the boat.  The NACUSO conference was awesome and I’ll go back next year as long as it isn’t the same time as Finovate.  We’ve got to find a way to get the people and companies at Finovate to interact with CU people.  That may be at NACUSO or somewhere else, but I think the real opportunities for innovation are happening outside of the CU industry at the moment.  NACUSO, Filene, and many others are trying to change that, but right now it seems many of the future-building conversations are happening at BarCamps, Finovate, or elsewhere.

Thoughts?