“Plants grow, people grow, even whole forests, jungles and coral reefs grow – but eventually they stop. This doesn’t mean they’re dead. They’ve simply reached a level of maturity where health is no longer about getting bigger but about sustaining vitality. There may be a turnover of cells, organisms, and even entire species. But the whole system learns to maintain itself over time, without the obligation to grow. Companies deserve to work this way as well.”
That is an excerpt from his book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity by Douglas Rushkoff. The title of his book refers to a protest in San Francisco against the “Google Machine” and became a symbol of what is wrong with Silicon Valley – a complete obsession with growth and profit.
When it debuted on the stock market, Google became Wall Street’s darling. Its market capitalization increased by $27.2 billion – giving it a market cap bigger than Ford and GM on the first day of trading. But, that’s about as big as you can get, so now what? Shareholders want more – they demand constant growth and return on their investment, which is impossible. Google was pretty much forced into becoming Alphabet, Inc. in 2015, a conglomerate. Google had no room to grow. They are no longer a technology company. Now they buy and sell other companies.
There is an obsession with growth in America. As if it’s the only sure path to success. Credit unions are continuing to merge in record numbers for the sake of growth. But to what end?
This is from a white paper published in 2008 that predicted the mega mergers to come:
Credit unions are selecting mergers as a survival and growth strategy rather than relying on the often too slow growth capabilities fueled only by retained earnings. Merging credit unions can often grow exponentially. The best strategic reasons to merge are well known:
- Asset and member acquisition
- Stronger branch and infrastructure systems
- Product and services portfolio growth
- Creation of proactive market share strategies
All of the above elements are needed due to the relentless competition from larger, well-capitalized financial institutions.
I don’t know about you but when I read this it sounds absurd. And I know that CUSO power user Linda Bodie, Chief + Innovator of $32 million Element Credit Union would agree. She uses seven different CUSOs to get that bullet list (above). And as she said in an interview with us “I can offer a lot more products, services and solutions even though I’m small. There’s no reason to sit back and not do something because of your size. Size doesn’t matter…not when you have the power of a cooperative system.”
Rushkoff goes on to say “What you want to do is optimize the economy for the velocity of money for transactions rather than optimizing it for the extraction from the system and its cold storage in share price.
We need to lead by example. Winco is an employee owned cooperative. They are a major competitor to the behemoth Walmart. Every market where they compete head to head Winco is winning and Walmart is losing. Winco has better employees, they are owners and they care. Winco does not extract value from their communities, they contribute to it. If you don’t put your employees on welfare, towns do better, and you have better circulation of money.
As companies collapse we’ll start to see a shift. As people who have no way of finding jobs begin to develop local businesses and work together we will see it change.”
Shameless plug: Thanks to the generous support of PSCU we are excited to have Douglas Rushkoff speak at the 2019 NACUSO Network Conference in San Diego, April 14th – 17th. He will be speaking on Team Human, the title of his latest book. Guy Messick has created a new session called “Solving Problems With CUSOs” which hopes to bring those leaders with a cooperative heart and a shrewd business mind together with credit union leaders looking for solutions to their challenges, to collaboratively help solve the problems that exist and walk away with opportunities for continued organic, healthy growth.