Thanks to the rapid evolution and adaptation of technology, business – even society – is changing faster than ever before. This transformation and its numerous layers and complexities can be intimidating for seasoned business executives, not to mention those just joining the credit union movement. With both the technology ecosystem and consumer expectations changing daily, how do we know when and where to “jump in”?
Often, we are advised to start small, get some wins under our belt, make a case and then scale up, of course, avoiding commitment to budget-breaking, enterprise-shifting or far-ranging projects without doing some experimenting first. These are important guardrails but they shouldn’t hide an important truth: you need to start somewhere. “Wait and see” is no longer an option. Instead, we need to be “fast followers” that explore promising technologies and processes that will impact our credit unions’ success today. We need to take the first step. To test and prove it now.
First, let’s start with our purpose, which is our members, and what we do know about their behavior and expectations:
- They are connected to more and more devices over longer periods of time.
- They are spending a greater share of their day connecting and engaging with their mobile devices, and consider them as a second, outsourced brain.
- They expect each technology engagement to be valuable and frictionless, and ultimately make their lives easier.
Both demand for and the delivery of these tech-driven connections are, in fact, accelerating, which means the rate of speed, complexity, (and fragmentation) is bending upwards. We’re already seeing it, leading to following the developments that will be likely commonplace within the next 10 years:
- Autonomous, self-driving automobiles.
- Artificial intelligence that will interact in a way that’s indistinguishable from actual humans, and even surpass us in areas such as medical diagnosis and treatment.
- Ambient computing and integration of Big Data much more into the fabric of our lives.
And closer to home in fintech and banking:
- Augmented and virtual banking experiences combining AI with personalized human-to-human experiences.
- Machine learning that produces hyper-targeted and personalized experiences across the entire member journey.
- A general lack of user privacy.
When we take a closer look, we see that the underlying dynamics in today’s innovations are speed and adaptation. Technology, data and analytics have combined to fundamentally alter the innovation curve, a curve that’s becoming increasingly steep. Ground-breaking innovations are happening at a rate faster than ever. Yesterday, is out of date tomorrow. (Anyone who owns a smartphone – which is all of us – has experienced this first hand.) Our world has transformed into an exponential economy built not just on innovation, but on constant, real-time innovation. It is truly a race that has no finish line.
Does Aspiring Toward Operational Excellence Mean Stifling Speed, Innovation and Agility?
It should come as no surprise that the speed of innovation has become an integral component of organizations who are focused on operational excellence. Historically, operational excellence has been based on the paradigm that continuous improvement can only be achieved by being slow and methodical. “Kaizen” is an excellent example for this paradigm: small changes over a period of time create larger-scale improvements within a company.
But today companies are approaching innovation with a sense of urgency, speed and agility. Executives are demanding continuous innovation, whether it be in the areas of product development, new service offerings or improving internal processes. They are looking for the right tools and teams to achieve operational excellence faster.
For credit unions, it is through the combination of consistency and agility that leaders can continuously innovate and change course when the situation demands. These leaders will maintain high standards, achieve goals, and demand consistency, but are also open to change – keeping a pulse on external conditions. They will recognize when the needs of their customers change and will be ready to change course accordingly.
This agile and consistent model has to be implemented through an operational process, supported by strong innovation dashboards to assure goals are consistently reached and continually improving. To assure agility, it’s important to develop a fluid planning model that allows your credit union to change outside of the formal annual planning process and create an annual strategic planning process that looks outward to the external environment and forces your credit union to consider big ideas.
Last but not least, with these processes in place, it’s imperative for leaders and their teams to consistently (and quickly) learn and grow along the way. Today, technology and behaviors are changing so rapidly, the time it takes to develop insights from our learnings is declining at a near exponential pace.
At CO-OP’s THINK 18 conference, we assembled a unique lineup of world-changing visionaries, practitioners and fintech revolutionaries to help you forge your own path on this race to excellence and find the perfect balance between agility and consistency.