Management

Set Your Innovation Process Free

Is formalizing creativity detrimental to the process?

July 20, 2013
KEYWORDS Change , innovation
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Linda Bodie jokes that she’s not always the life of the party when she goes out.

Chances are she’s thinking about work, and when a good idea comes to mind—regardless of when or where—she’ll pursue it.

Bodie, CEO of $26 million asset Element Federal Credit Union in Charleston, W.Va., doesn’t believe a formal process is necessary for innovation. In fact, she thinks formalizing creativity could even be detrimental to the process.

“If we make it a ‘process,’ it loses the creativity and limitlessness,” Bodie says. “Good ideas can happen in the office, at a ball game, at church, at a party—anywhere someone’s creative juices are touched.”

Bodie finds inspiration from many sources. Once while dining out, she noticed that the restaurant used iPads for its cash registers, menus, and seating chart. It turns out the business was using “POS Lazu”—a complete point-of-sale (POS) system that runs on the tablet.

This sparked the idea for Element Federal’s “Go Kiosk,” which lets members open and fund accounts, apply for loans, and access documents from any computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Earlier, in 2009, the credit union developed and deployed a remote deposit capture system for the iPhone called iDeposit.

Element Federal does a variety of “quirky little things,” such as offering “call-ahead transactions,” where members can schedule a time to conduct business; and providing debit cards with custom images in as little as two minutes. “We surprise a lot of people a lot of the time,” Bodie says.

The credit union has been paperless for more than 10 years, and does 50% to 60% of new account openings and loan applications electronically.

Element Federal does all of this with 12 employees, including a part-time information technology staffer whose attitude is, “if I can’t do something, I’ll learn how,” Bodie says.

Her advice for fostering innovation:

Check back Wednesday and Thursday for parts two and three of this special report.

Way to Go!

Deb Schaffer
June 26, 2013 10:35 am
Way to go, Element FCU! In all the years I've worked in the CU industry, I've never encountered a more innovative, progressive, and forward-thinking group as the group I've gotten to know at Element. With Linda at the helm, the sky's the limit! Keep blazing those trails, Team Element.


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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 (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.

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