“The opportunity to reach the extraordinary may be most pronounced in settings that have been far too ordinary for far too long.”
Many of us dream of working at a cool place like Netflix, Uber or AirBnB. The offices are amazing; they changed the world in unforeseen ways within a few years. One imagines a work life filled with excitement and innovation. Maybe it should remain a dream.
William C. Taylor’s new management book, “Simply brilliant” answers this dream with a provocative assertion: You don’t have to be working with world-famous innovators and Silicon Valley unicorns to be accomplishing something remarkable. Your best opportunities for change and real innovation are in the businesses that run parking lots, deliver health care and, yes, handle other people’s money.
Just think of parking garages. Yes, parking garages. Architectural Record describes them this way: “In the Pantheon of Building Types, the parking garage lurks somewhere in the vicinity of prisons and toll plazas.” That is, until developer Robert Wennett came along and hired the architects who designed the Tate Modern in London and Beijing’s Nest Olympic Stadium. Wennett invested more than $60 million to transform a bland garage into a cultural landmark.
1111 Lincoln Road has been called “stunning” by the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press wrote that it, “has become a modern gateway to the see-and-be-seen cafe scene of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road.” It’s become a site for weddings, wine tastings, yoga classes and celebrity parties.
“Let’s look at what a parking garage is, and then let’s twist every single notion about it. Nothing we do here is what you expect. We’re creating an experience, we’re telling a story.” Robert Wennett
What story is your credit union telling that’s unexpected and unforgettable?
Just remember: There’s no such thing as an average or old-fashioned business, just average or old-fashioned ways to do business. Author William C. Taylor uses case studies and powerful lessons show how successful companies do ordinary things in extraordinary ways:
- USAA: The financial-services giant that provides soldiers and their families with insurance and banking products inspires frontline employees to deliver extraordinary service by immersing them in military culture.
- The 100,000 Homes Campaign: Launched by Community Solutions in New York City, the campaign aims to secure permanent housing for 100,000 chronically homeless Americans in four years without a major influx of government funding. Nearly 190 cities and towns have already come up with grassroots efforts that have ultimately housed 105,580 homeless.
- Lincoln Electric: A manufacturer based in Euclid, Ohio, dominates its ultra-competitive markets with a fierce devotion to quality and productivity. But the key to its prosperity is a share-the-wealth model that gives everybody a sense of security and a piece of the action. It has maintained a strict no-layoff pledge since 1958.
The most valuable part of Simply Brilliant comes at the end, when Taylor offers eight core insights that are meant to help any reader “write a more rewarding story for yourself and the organizations that you care about.”
Taylor’s checklist starts with the importance of building a unique definition of success that stands apart from the competition. If other financial institutions view retail deposits as a dull feedstock for the more exciting parts of banking, see if you can find a way to make branch banking exciting. Take a tip from WD-40, which decided it was more than a peddler of industrial lubricants; it was on a mission to rid the world of squeaks, smells and dirt.
“The thrill of breakthrough creativity and breakaway performance doesn’t belong just to the youngest companies with the most cutting-edge technology or the most radical business strategies,” says Taylor. “It can be summoned in all sorts of industries and all walks of life, if leaders can reimagine what’s possible in their fields. The opportunity to reach the extraordinary may be most pronounced in settings that have been far too ordinary for far too long.”
If you are looking to do credit union business differently in your community, Taylor’s book is the perfect inspiration to get started.