In Constant Pursuit of Good Design

Delight and happiness are tools used to design good CU experiences.

October 02, 2013
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On his LinkedIn page, Brent Dixon says he’s “a designer, educator, and musician—in no particular order.” He’s not a stickler about such things.

Dixon emphasizes the importance of design to credit unions “because it’s a way to show they care about people. I want to overcome the idea that design is solely about making something look aesthetically pleasing when it’s really about making things work beautifully.

“It’s melding form and function into seamless interactions. At the credit union level, it includes taking something logical—such as budgeting—and joining it to something
emotional—money. It’s about making something that works well in addressing both, whether it’s banking products, a website, or branch design. Delight and happiness are tools used to design good credit union experiences.”

An example of good design research comes from The Cooperative Trust, a young professionals group Dixon founded while working with the Filene Research Institute. He oversaw a variety of project types, including one involving unbanked and underbanked consumers.

“Despite their fear of financial institutions, many of the people we met with were more on top of their finances than banked people,” he says. “They can’t afford mistakes.”

That research project led members of the Cooperative Trust to develop Tru Circle—a pilot program inspired by “village banking,” which is used in many developing countries. “At no risk to the credit union, a group of five friends or family members contributes a set monthly amount into a common account,” explains Dixon. “When a member requests a loan, the group must unanimously approve it. The transactions help borrowers establish credit histories.”

The Cooperative Trust enables young credit union professionals to design and prototype products and services that are relevant to young consumers. “It’s OK to positively disrupt the system,” says Dixon, who’s now pursuing a master’s of fine arts degree.

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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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