Lead Innovation to Meaningful Uniqueness

CUs are the only intelligent life form in the banking industry, Hall says.

June 27, 2011
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Having stupid competitors hurts innovation and leads to complacency, says Doug Hall, CEO and founder of the Eureka! Ranch, an innovation and research think tank.

“The only intelligent life form in the banking industry is credit unions,” he says. “I challenge credit unions to be meaningfully unique. If you’re not, you'd better be cheaper [than competitors].”

He advises credit unions to figure out where they fall in the business life cycle—whether they’re growing or declining. “Would you buy your credit union? If not, the business is declining,” Hall says.

“Use innovation to reboot and restart your growth curve. There's never been a better time to do so than now,” he says, noting the high average age of credit union members.

Hall says credit unions should be winning in the race for the market. “You should be winning tremendously. You should be slaughtering the competition.”

While the world changes faster and faster, most management teams haven’t kept pace, he says. “It’s not enough to give good service. You must be proactive.”

To be more innovative, credit unions should:

  • Explore stimulus. Instead of brainstorming, which sucks ideas out of the head, feed the brain with stimuli;
  • Leverage diversity of ideas;
  • Communicate; and
  • Turn employees into marketers who can identify a member’s problem, promise a benefit from a particular product/service, and offer the proof the product/service delivers.

“Tell consumers why they should care,” Hall advises.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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