Jason Osterhage

Intellectual Curiosity Trumps Insularity

Venturing outside your comfort zone is key to discovering new ideas.

October 9, 2013

Intellectual curiosity explains Jason Osterhage’s affinity for a wide range of subjects.

These subjects include Frank Gehry’s provocative architecture, the powerful lessons of business thinkers Nancy Duarte and Alexsander Osterwalder, and Pixar’s blend of productivity and creativity.

“I find inspiration in all of these places because I share Peter Drucker’s view that management is a liberal art,” says Osterhage, senior vice president of lending at Alliant Credit Union in Chicago. “It draws on psychology and philosophy, economics and history, current events, culture, ethics, and the latest applications of the physical sciences.

“I’ve always tried to find my way onto teams where I’m the dumbest person in the room,” he continues. “If I ever feel like I’m the smartest person in a room, there’s the potential to stop learning and growing.”

Osterhage entered the credit union industry eight years ago with Delta Community Credit Union in Atlanta and last year moved to Alliant, where he’s intrigued by the organization’s commitment to ask challenging questions and remain committed to credit union philosophy.

One of Alliant’s goals is to promote responsible borrowing in a way that creates lasting social benefit. That jibes with Osterhage’s dedication to monitor groundbreakers in all fields.

“Look beyond credit union boundaries to define the limits of what’s necessary and possible to accomplish,” Osterhage says. “Our business is unique in ways that matter, but I believe we can spend too much time talking to ourselves about ourselves.”

With social entrepreneurship, cross-sector collaboration, and conscious capitalism becoming buzzwords, credit unions possess a rare opportunity to differentiate themselves, Osterhage says.

To that end, credit union executives must recognize that they serve as the primary engine of growth and change, he adds.

“Leaders would do well to think of themselves as strategic leaders of social enterprises navigating today’s business environment—and then search within that broader frame for ideas and inspiration,” Osterhage says.