Action Guide: 9. Launch Digital Experimentation Projects

Many credit unions are not set up to move at the speed that the digital world demands. Setting up a hybrid team, or “experimentation team” utilizing a mix of external and internal experts, can be a good way to start. These teams can facilitate rapid product development, tangible prototypes that can be used to present business cases, as well as enable transformation agents to get buy in from around the organization. Experimentation teams are also a good way of sharing knowledge, which an organization can then use to take a function in-house over a period of time. This approach has been adopted in many industries, in particular transport solutions. The most innovative RailTech event in Europe, HackTrain, is an example of experimentation teams working well in practice. Each year hundreds of the brightest developers, designers and entrepreneurs gather to solve some of the rail industry’s greatest challenges. Many of the solutions born from these experimentation teams – such as flexible tickets, ticketless ticketing and crowd-solutions in stations – are being adopted by rail operators right now. Your experimentation teams need to know that it’s okay to fail. Half of ideas never see the light of day because they’re thought to be certain failures. It is endemic to many companies’ cultures for employees to avoid the appearance of failure for fear of losing credibility, respect or even their jobs. New ideas and technology often seem implausible or likely to fail. Before Airbnb was a rising star, who would have thought renting out private homes to strangers could be a multi-billion-dollar business? Sergey Brin, who oversees Google’s experimentation lab – GoogleX -  has famously said, “Even when you go after a more ambitious goal, even if you fail to achieve that one, all the side effects that come along the way can be that much more rewarding and significant in their own right.” Throughout the course of technological innovation, teams have sought to do the impossible or the improbable. These groups need the freedom to fail without consequences from leadership or peers. Affording these teams the freedom to fail also allows you to recognize when you have failed, and when it’s time to readjust focus and efforts. If you and your team both have the freedom to admit trouble, it’s easier to catch issues early. While building a culture of experimentation, take the time to build strong support from leadership. This goes hand in hand with the freedom to fail. Too often, C-suite execs and VPs either aren’t pushing for innovation or they don’t understand the value of experimentation groups. There are many causes for this and the attitude in play is not entirely the fault of leadership. Nothing will kill an innovation or R&D team/project quicker than a leadership team that isn’t driving them forward and moving obstacles out of their way.   Download the 10-Step Action Guide to Kickstart your Digital Transformation Journey. Join us September 28 for the Digital Transformation Webinar Series: Grow Your Capacity for Change: How Credit Unions Can Thrive in Dynamic Markets. CO-OP Financial Services partnered with NOBL, an Organizational Design Firm, to assess the readiness of credit unions for change. During this webinar, Bud Caddell, NOBL Founder, and Uwe Hook, Digital Transformation Consultant, will share with the audience an inside look at the opportunities and threats facing credit unions today, as well as first steps you can take to grow your capacity for change. Register now