Management

Gladwell: CUs are David to Banks’ Goliath

CUs should use their size to their advantage in a financial services arena that’s as unsettled as ever.

May 17, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +
Photodisc/Thinkstock®

What credit union wouldn’t want the brand dominance of Apple or the financial resources of Goldman Sachs?

How about the real estate dominance of McDonalds with a footprint in every city? Imagine a marketing budget in the eight figures as the norm.

That’s the world of America’s behemoth companies, but certainly not credit unions.

Guess what? Credit unions may have the advantage says Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author, famed New Yorker reporter, and keynote speaker at CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC) June 29 to July 3 in New York City.

Gladwell is best known best for turning conventional wisdom on its head. He does just that in his soon to be released “David vs. Goliath,” a book he previewed for CUNA in conjunction with his upcoming (ACUC) keynote session July 1.

“I am interested in the idea that a lot of our intuition about what an advantage is and what a disadvantage is are wrong; that we confuse those two things,” Gladwell says. “We can make a list of things that help us or hurt us. I think the wrong things are on the list.”

Bigger isn’t always better and being powerful in a marketplace doesn’t ensure future success. Large, leading companies, he says, “innovate less. They have less of a need to talk to their customers. They are less nimble. Prestige can limit you. People who are No. 1 in a marketplace have a smaller degree of freedom.”

Should you, for example, go to the best college you get into—or to the one where you’ll best thrive?

“Harvard is a great place to go to college if you are in the top third of your class,” Gladwell says. “If you are not, you are absolutely better off at a good school where you can thrive and be confident and compete successfully.”

Credit unions are David to the banks’ Goliath and it’s time to embrace that, Gladwell says. Credit unions should use their size to their advantage in a financial services arena that is as unsettled as it’s ever been.

Consider the example of Emil Freireich, who developed a promising treatment for childhood leukemia. He “had the courage to try things that no one else had the courage to do.”

Freireich wasn’t trying to belong to a club of famous people. “He wasn’t,” Gladwell says, “bound by anyone’s conventions. True innovation comes from the marginal people who push innovations into the center.”

Gladwell will take his unconventional approach to prestige and power to ACUC in July. Credit unions seeking that extra motivation for bringing courageous innovation to their markets can’t afford to miss it.

 

 

 

 

PAUL GENTILE is CUNA’s executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement.

Post a comment to this story

heroes

What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive