Isn’t it time that your credit union stopped worrying about being disrupted? Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to set the standard for member and employee experience?
The framework for doing those things actually appeared in 1984. Not George Orwell’s book 1984 although some might make that case as well. The model for collaboration that leads to innovation and disruption appeared in a book titled Silicon Valley Fever written by Ev Rogers and Judith Larson.
Rogers and Larson told the story of the Homebrew Computer Club – a group of electronic enthusiasts and hobbyists that met in a garage from 1976 to 1985. The bi-weekly meetings included many of the tech industry pioneers, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak even used the forum to give away the schematics for the Apple I computer.
The lesson from the early days of Silicon Valley is clear: Collaboration across networks of smart people who share interests and are willing to help each other succeed makes an exponential impact on results.
Making Collaboration Work Today and Tomorrow
Chances are that you are collaborating at some level right now. You are probably using cross-functional project teams, member focus groups, and beta testing new products and services to create synergies and gain new perspectives.
Likewise, there are informal networks and relationships within your credit union team. Smart, committed people always find ways to circumvent the silos and make their lives easier.
While these are all positive, cross-departmental collaboration is most likely not happening at the level needed to provide distinctive member or employee experiences. A study done by PointSource, a Globant company, found that only 30 percent of departments always reach across their organizational boundaries to solve problems of transformation and change.
Legitimizing and accelerating collaborative networks equips and empowers your team to:
- Reach across organizational boundaries to solve complex problems that can’t be completely addressed by one department or skill set.
- Promote creative problem solving and innovation by forcing the collision of ideas and perspectives that have never been formally connected.
- Anticipate and recognize the unintended consequences that can occur when groups look at problems only from their perspective.
- Create ownership and buy-in for the changes required to solve complex, cross-departmental problems.
Here are three ideas on which you can work right now to accelerate collaboration.
- Create an organizational structure that supplements shared digital tools.
The current generation of digital collaboration tools does an excellent job of connecting teams through easy-to-use platforms. Your employees—especially the digital native Millennials and Gen Zs—expect you to provide tools to help them stay connected. If you aren’t investing in new tools, you will have a difficult time recruiting and retaining the talent you need for the future.
David Rabin, Vice President of Global Commercial Marketing at Lenovo, told me, “The employee experience is driven by technology. If the technology doesn’t work, the experience is a bad one. Companies that don’t invest in technology that enables collaboration are turning employees into a bad investment.”
Digital tools don’t automatically create the same connection and energy as those regular face-to-face collaboration meetings of the 1980s Silicon Valley, however. For that to happen, you will need to create physical contact.
We have helped several of our clients establish standing and ad hoc cross functional teams to implement matrixed solutions to complex problems. One client formed a dedicated “Scout Team” to identify potential opportunities that don’t fall into the responsibility of any one department. Another recently established a “Collaboration & Innovation Team” to drive matrixed execution of strategic goals.
Regardless of the approach you take, collaboration that drives innovation requires dedicated time and space to deliver optimum results.
- Help teams see the big picture and the various small pictures.
Sharing the big picture vision to create context and buy-in has been a staple of effective leadership for decades. People at every level want to see how their work makes a difference.
To stimulate effective collaboration, you should also show the small picture. In other words, help your team see the interconnected problem and opportunities that aren’t readily visible to the naked eye.
For instance, the vision of a world-class member experience is actually a series of interconnected and often complex small processes and behaviors. Many of them are never seen by your member.
Your ability to simultaneously connect the big picture to what happens at the most granular levels creates the context and focus for increased collaboration.
- Reenergize the culture of collaboration.
In the early days of your credit union everyone did whatever it took to succeed. No one was scared or offended by someone saying, “I’ve got an idea to make your idea better.”
Then you became successful and grew. Organizational charts, job descriptions, and competition for budget dollars followed. Departments began competing for budget dollars more than sacrificing for the greater good.
In the end, the culture always wins. A great technology ecosystem and opportunities to experience the world differently are, at best, tweaks to the process if the culture promotes protecting yourself.
Leaders must celebrate successful collaboration so that everyone sees the benefit of seeking and providing help from others. Asking for a different perspective must become a sign of strength rather than a signal of weakness. Offering an unrequested idea to a colleague in another area must be viewed as a show of support rather than meddling.
Some of the greatest technology advancements came about because people met in a garage two times per month to exchange ideas. Isn’t it time that you accelerated true collaboration in your credit union?