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Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree

Readiness for the unexpected must be a 'core' competency.

February 20, 2012
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A round of apple-whippin’ with the lads is quite invigorating.

Back in the day, after gathering a bucket of rock-hard-to-semi-rotten sour apples, my brothers and I would liberate bamboo stakes from Mom’s flower patch. We’d use them to fling the fruit, typically targeting the top of the silo for the rewarding “ping” that occurred with spot-on shots.

Once, however, we targeted the rickety corn crib, as its rough planks provided ample opportunity for satisfying shredding and splatting of far-flung fruits.

I thoughtfully speared an apple and employed the overhead whip. The stake sliced the air and the rock-hard apple sailed through the crib’s doorless entry.

A series of alarming sounds ensued: Squaaawk. Thwack. Thump.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.

We raced to the corn crib. On the floor was a stunned starling, an accidental victim of a fruity missile. A “fowl” ball indeed!

The tale is now legendary.

Consider the frightened little bird. He couldn’t flee or react as an apple knocked him for a loop.

Now, consider your credit union’s daily operations and planning strategies. Are you forward-thinking? Could an event or circumstance fly out of nowhere and knock you off a comfortable perch, even if the odds seem incredibly remote?

This week’s research will keep you alert and flying high.

A ‘disappointing’ recovery

Is an improving economy merely “pie in the sky?”

See the Bureau of Labor Statistics review of economic situations in “The U.S. Economy in 2020: Recovery in Uncertain Times.”

It notes that the U.S. continues to undergo “a slower-than-average recovery, similar to the experience of other countries facing financial crisis…Many analysts have referred to the recovery to date as modest’ or ‘disappointing.’”

For further worldwide comparison, check out The World Bank report, “Slow and Steady Recovery Continues, With Encouraging Signs in Developing Countries in Eastern Europe.” 

It highlights three international trends:

1. Employment in countries of middle income continues with gradual recovery;

2. Strong resurgence is evident in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and

3. Rebounds in Latin America moderate, but East Asia trends are positive.

The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College tries to get to the core of the European crisis in “Delaying the Next Global Meltdown.”

It argues that the European Monetary Union’s central weakness “is that it separates nations from their currencies without providing them with adequate overarching fiscal or monetary policy structures—it’s like a United States without a treasury or fully functioning Federal Reserve.

“Without addressing this basic structural weakness, Euroland will continue to stumble toward the cliff—and threaten to pull a tottering U.S. financial system over the edge with it.”

Nielsen provides bird’s eye view of the international crisis, observing, “China and U.S. Improve, but Overall Consumer Confidence Fell in 60% of Global Markets.”

Could international economies blindside your operations? Are you keeping a watchful eye on worldwide circumstances?

Consumer changes

Whipping along to consumer news, Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis examines “The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor.” 

It indicates “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.”

Perhaps a consequence of this reality is that “Low Literacy Means Lower Earnings, Especially for Women.” 

Pew Research reveals that the economy is still a challenge for the apples of our eyes. But our progeny still do us proud in “Young, Underemployed, and Optimistic: Coming of Age Slowly in a Tough Economy.” 

“While young people are less likely now than they were before the recession to say they currently have enough income, their level of optimism is undiminished from where it was in 2004,” the report states.

Indicating a shift in consumers’ perceptions, research from Colliers International reveals dollar stores are no longer considered seedy: “The rapid evaporation of wealth, both real and perceived, has profoundly changed the way Americans shop, how they think about the buying experience, and how they define value.”

Can credit unions incorporate any of these lessons in marketing techniques? How do you define value for your membership? What are priorities for consumers when they consider financial institutions?

Deloitte outlines some other interesting trends to keep tabs on in “Tech Trends 2012.” 

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a harsh truism for our startled starling after his not-so-golden-delicious experience. Be ready to respond to the unexpected—no matter how remote the odds!

LORA KLOTH is research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.


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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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