Originally posted on CUES Inside Marketing, January 2017.
Watching, trying and wiping out are all keys to innovation.
The first of the year is always a time of reassessment. What did we do right last year and what did we do wrong—and how can we fix those wrongs this year? It’s also a time for opportunity. That means looking to the horizon at what will make us better, more efficient, productive and, hopefully, profitable so we can keep doing this again next year and the year after.
Conducting this annual assessment, one word keeps permeating the whole process: learning. No matter who you are—a rookie, mid-level manager, or a seasoned C-suite exec—learning should never cease.
Living in San Diego, I’ve been surfing for more than 25 years and I consider myself fairly decent in most conditions the ocean offers up. Although, you probably won’t see me surfing 30-foot waves at Pe’ahi off the coast of Maui—ever. (Pe’ahi has been nicknamed “Jaws” for good reason.)
Each time I surf, I try to paddle out with somebody who is better than me. This tactic allows me to do two things: push myself to match their level and pick their brains to learn more from them. Or, if I venture out by myself, I look for the best surfer in the water and study what they do and try to pick up a new move or two.
And, of course, the internet offers thousands and thousands of hours of footage of professional surfers doing their thing. Many of them even provide tutorials of how they have developed and perfected their moves, breaking them down in a step-by-step process. Thank you, YouTube.
In essence, I’m taking lessons to get better.
The same goes for my professional life. I enjoy writing, working with video and interviewing people. I am always researching new ways to better accomplish these tasks, reading related books to increase my knowledge and talking to experts who are way better than me on how they have perfected their craft. I do this to provide a better product to my audience, clients, sponsors, etc. They deserve it, which means they will keep returning.
For example, learning the technology and process of producing online video interviews for CUbroadcast took literally hundreds of hours of trial and error, testing different apps, cameras, lighting (still trying to get this one right), framing, graphics, intros/outros, music, etc. It’s still a process I practice today. When I started experimenting seven or eight years ago, much of what I’m using today wasn’t around—not to mention online bandwidth was, for the most part, dismal.
But I kept learning, kept researching, kept trying new things, kept “taking lessons.” There’s a saying in surfing that if you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough. I keep thinking about this little mantra when I’m surfing, but also when I’m doing new things in my professional life, pushing the product to be better.
From my perspective, companies like Blockbuster, Tower Records and even Sears stopped trying hard enough. It seemed like they stopped pushing their product to be better, instead being complacent with their “too-big-to-fail” business models, while others (Netflix, iTunes, Kindle, Uber, Tesla, etc.) tried, tested, perfected and leapfrogged the staid establishment.
So is your credit union trying hard enough? Are you consistently looking for ways to build a better mousetrap? Are you consistently looking to enhance your branch, online and mobile experience? Are consistently looking to tap experts’ knowledge on anything from technology to marketing to business operations? Are you consistently looking for classes and courses, webinars and seminars to simply learn more and contribute new ideas?
I just had lunch with a friend of mine who works at a local credit union. He was picking my brain on video, marketing, media, etc. for some lofty plans he has in 2017. He’s a credit union lifer, but he wants to break out of this-is-only-what-credit-unions-do silo and start doing some different revenue-generating and message-delivery projects that, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t been done before in our industry.
My friend is definitely stepping up and trying more than hard enough—and he may fall a couple of times. But he’s trying; he’s not satisfied. This is the type of thinking that creates change.
So where is your credit union? Are you satisfied with where it is today? We had a pretty good year in 2016, no doubt. Does that mean you can take it easy in 2017? No way. Keep that foot on the accelerator.
Keep taking lessons. Every little bit you absorb counts.
Sidebar alert: Much of the information I have gained over the years of research to hone my business and help others have materialized in little nuggets that amounted to big change. It seemed so minor at the time. But when you look back at all the little morsels gained over the years collectively, it’s significant. And when you see that significance, it fosters more motivation to amp up the learning.
No matter how big or small the gains, no matter your skill level, no matter your job; learning, testing, perfecting and executing can only help you and, ultimately, your organization exceed this year.
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Author: Mike Lawson
Married to a most gorgeous and wonderful wife, raising 5 kiddos (including twins!), enjoy helping others tell their stories, and love surfing SoCal waves. Keep it simple.