An amazing kick-off to THINK 12, wasn’t it? First, Caroline Willard Lane introduced in her unique way the three themes of THINK 12: Creativity, Reinvention and Cult Brand. She was followed by Jeff Baxter, discussing the idea of ‘Assymmetrical Thinking in a Conventional World’ and Billy Beane, talking about ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an unfair Game’. We wrapped up the first day with the first THINK It Out Session, evaluating the challenges and hot button issues of credit unions.

Caroline Willard Lane, CO-OP Senior Vice President, Business Development and Marketing CO-OP Financial Services, delivered a much-needed wake-up call to the credit union industry: “It’s finally the time to new ways to integrate members and make them part of our movement.” There is a great new potential for membership growth, if we are all able to take advantage of the opportunities this moment in time is representing to us. It’s finally the time to find new ways to integrate members and make them part of our movement.

Let’s focus on major goals:

  • Credit Unions as the next big thing
  • Credit Unions as the first cult brand in financial services
  • More importantly: How do we get there?

 Creativity. Reinvention. Cult Brand.

What does it take to be creative? As Jonah Lehrer said: “Every creative journey begins with a problem.” Like the problem we all face in growing credit union membership. It’s all about new connections. Or, as Steve Jobs said: “Creativity is just connecting things.” You need to have enough dots to connect.

To prosper and succeed, credit unions need to embrace reinvention as a permanent way of doing business. Learn, analyze, and relaunch. It’s all about agility, shifting into permanent beta, freeing up your way of thinking. We need to think of each credit union as a thought laboratory for all credit unions.

To become a cult brand, we need to make it being part of a financial community, a clear advantage to individual members. We need to reassert the idea that credit unions are a movement. We need to break down the barriers between “them” and “us.”

Jeff Baxter, a highly-valued consultant for the private sector, Congress and the national security establishment, discussed ways you can use strategic, out-of-the-box thinking to view the future not as a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but as an era of opportunity and growth.

Break the problem down into its smallest bits and reassemble them into new pieces.

Most people look at problems from the point of analysis, they often forget the synthesis part. What if you take the pieces and assemble them in new ways? Artists are hard-wired to look at problems in new ways. That’s a required skill for organizations to survive in this rapidly changing economy. When he compared credit unions with banks, he likened banks to the General army and credit unions to special forces. Banks are unmovable objects, credit unions are agile and should apply the OODA loop concept: observe, orient, decide and act, as developed by John Boyd.

Billy Beane, Oakland A’s General Manager and subject of Moneyball, talked about how your credit union can reinvent itself by identifying undervalued assets to create and sustain a competitive advantage.

It’s obvious, but sometimes leaders need to make bold and unpopular decisions, and then stick with them.

Very few of us are willing to make these kinds of decisions. There were many mathematical variables, but the single one that they chose to focus on was called “on-base percentage” (OBP). This just means that by whatever means, whether by taking a walk, getting hit by a pitch, or hitting singles, the player gets to first base. If you don’t have players on base, there’s no way to score runs. This variable defined their strategy, and importantly what they wouldn’t focus on. For example, they were defensively just “good enough”, but focusing on one thing helped them to dedicate their limited resources.

What can credit unions learn from Moneyball? What metrics should we call out more, which should be less important for us?

All of these burning questions were discussed in the first THINK It Out session. Billy Beane and Jeff Baxter were joined on stage by Sarah Snell Cooke, Editor-in-Chief of CU Times, Stan Hollen, President/CEO CO-OP Financial Services and Frank Diekman, Publisher CU Journal to discuss challenges and hot button issues.

Ultimately, all participants were asked:

What is the message you would give to your credit union members?

– Look at what your members want and serve them the way they want to be served.

– People need to know the fundamentals and build upon it.

– Communicate with your members. They are your best ambassadors.

– Build a platform that allows members to be an ambassador.

– Learn from other businesses, not only from your industry.

What a great start to THINK 12. Much, much, much, more to come. Stay tuned.