By Frank J. Diekmann
Diversity gets a lot of attention in credit unions, and it should (although let’s not confuse attention with action. Stop for a moment and look around at any major credit union meeting and Rainbow Coalition it’s not.)
But Omar Johnson, who became the third employee at Beats by Dre, maker of the headphones he helped make cultural icons when he was responsible for marketing and brand building, recently shared with credit unions a different perspective on the issue of people and diversity.
“People make great products and do great storytelling,” he said. “The more people and points of view you start to add to a group means your idea pool just gets bigger. The word diversity doesn’t mean much to me. It’s become this big euphemism. If you think about diversity, it’s about color, and the color is green; it’s about making money. You add more diversity, you make more money.”
Johnson also offered a few other notable observations:
- He related how he carries a metal American Express card (Mr. Johnson appears to have done OK at Beats by Dre, which was acquired by Apple for a billion dollars), and every time he uses it merchants say “wow.” “That makes me feel good. I don’t know how debt makes me feel good,” he joked. “To me it’s a cheap trick, but it works. It creates identity and a point of differentiation.”
- “To walk in someone else’s shoes, you must first take your shoes off,” Johnson said.
- While within the credit union community there seems to be endless talk around the word “member,” Johnson said the debate needs to end. “I like the word member. As an outsider, I would totally attack a data point like that. How we address someone can be totally transformative.”
Your Backstop & Flagpole
Taylor Nelms is among those who argue digital and analog experiences need to complement each other, meaning the physical branch continues to have a vital role.
“There is a lot of discussion around the future of the branch, and we’ve found it continues to play a really crucial role, but a changed role,” said Nelms, who is managing director of research with Filene Research Institute. “It’s more of a backstop and flagpole. People want to know it’s there, and it also serves to raise awareness.”
Nelms also offered another observation about that speaks to the dichotomy of member and consumer expectations: credit unions want their brands to be “top of wallet” in multiple ways, but members want their credit union to be transparent, unless they needtheir CU. Nelms describe that scenario as “ambient banking.”
“Think about what Uber and Lyft do really well,” said Nelms. “They do payment really well. It automates payment and pushes it to the background.”
The rapid rise of technology companies and instant-billionaires and just-add-water millionaires has been unique to our generation. It isn’t just processing speeds that have gotten faster and faster, accumulation of wealth has, as well. In the process it has also hastened the regret process, allowing you to begin thinking “if I only knew then what I know now” just a short time after the “then.”
That point was reinforced by author Seth Godin, who recently told credit unions that in 1992 he had a high-speed Internet connection when very few other people did.
“I used the connection to write a book about the Internet that sold about 1,800 copies,” lamented Godin. “At the same time two other guys saw the same thing and then built Yahoo, and then sold it for about $80 billion. They had a blank slate and asked, ‘What is possible?’ I said, ‘What do I already need to do?” and that’s where many of you are sitting now.”
Godin later observed that at some corporate meetings the question is asked, “How tall is your sunflower?”
“What people forget is sunflowers have very complex root systems,” Godin related. “The roots are all about the stories you tell to the people who chooseto do business with you.”
Other observations shared by Godin:
- He said no one has ever gone into financial services to be a “revolutionary edge case. Deep down in our heads we all fear that someone will say you know what, you’re not as good as you think you are. So we back down.”
- Godin also addressed another frequent observation by conference speakers and other purveyors of clichés: “Failure is not an option.” “But if failure is not an option then neither is success,” said Godin. “You are innovating again and again. The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.”
Godin reminded that in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, the sum total of NASA’s computing power was less than that in the devices the credit union executives were carrying in their pockets.
“And yet there are footprints on the moon,” he said.
The HIPPO in the Room
Is there a HIPPO in your credit union? It’s not only likely, there’s a good chance it’s you. Dr. Stephanie L. Woerner, a research scientist with the MIT School of Management, recently told credit unions Procter & Gamble has turned to research as a means of moving away from the HIPPO Method of Decision-Making. And what is that? HIPPO stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.
The U.S. of A Plate
Famed chef and humanitarian Jose Andres recently offered an observation on what his adopted country is all about in remarks before CO-OP’s THINK Conference. “Do you know what America is at the end of the day? It’s a giant restaurant. Even an NBA game is now a restaurant with entertainment.”
Frank J. Diekmann is Cooperator-in-Chief at CUToday.info. He can be reached at Frank@CUToday.infoor @FrankCUToday.