Making a Difference Through Innovation

'Empathy is the most reliable source of good ideas.'

October 07, 2013
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Matt Davis, director of innovation at the Filene Research Institute, is much more than an idea man.

He’s a doer. And his impact is rippling across the credit union movement.

“He’s got a combination of whip smart intellect and the rare ability to do the things he talks about,” says George Hofheimer, Filene’s chief research and innovation officer.

Davis guides the prestigious i3 program that creates new products, services, processes, and business models for credit unions.

He’s the author of several Filene publications, the creator of The Credit Union Warrior blog, and the co-founder of


Hofheimer is glad Davis is on Team Credit Union.

“His values match up really well with the credit union system,” Hofheimer says. “He is extremely helpful and earnest. He really personifies that in his work and personal life. He is always willing to pitch in.”

His list of innovations and accolades is too long to cover adequately in limited space. Basically, he talks the talk and walks the walk.

“He is extremely action-oriented. That was his hallmark even before coming to Filene,” Hofheimer says.

Davis got his credit union start as director of public relations for Members Credit Union in Winston- Salem, N.C., where his “What Are You Saving For?” program was featured in Fast Company.

So, where do all of Davis’s good ideas come from?

“Empathy is the most reliable source of good ideas,” Davis says. “The willingness and ability to observe human behavior and put yourself in the shoes of others helps a creator understand problems that need to be solved, when they are experienced, and how those problems impact the people who experience them.

“Innovation,” he adds, “is a problem-solving mechanism that is fueled almost entirely by empathy.”

Davis is glad to be working for a movement that has a long history of improving people’s lives through mutual self-help.

“What fires me up about credit unions is the tremendous potential we have to make a difference in this world,” he says.

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