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Innovate From Below


Posted on May 23, 2018

Posted by: David L. Peterson

I talk a lot about innovation and the need for enterprise-wide innovation. As I talk with business leaders, it is interesting to me that many C Suite executives do not consider innovation across the entire organization to be a priority.  And this is not just an “old school” mentality, I recently spoke with a Gen X executive who stated flat out that he was “not interested” in doing innovation workshops for the whole staff. While it is obvious to me what the benefits are of having everyone focused on innovation, it will be unlikely that I can move opinion in the course of one conversation.  But I can influence it over time.

Suppose you are a calling officer at a midwestern regional bank. You call on businesses and are constantly looking for ways your FI can differentiate from competitors.  Yet any effort you make to suggest ideas for how to add products that businesses need (say something mission critical for accurate posting of business accounts receivables like Integrated Receivables …) but are not part of “Traditional Banking Services” is met with staunch entrenchment from above.  “We are a traditional community bank, we don’t do that here” or “You must think we are in a metro area” are just a few of the typical excuses offered to stifle innovation. This creates two intertwined problems; there is no real effort to examine how Treasury services should be transformed and a potential future senior executive of this institution may get so fed up that they exit for more open-minded employers. These are the types of people asking questions on my webinars or speaking to me after keynotes on innovation in banking.  

The answer is a drip campaign.  Just like water wears down rock over time, a drip campaign would entail a mid-level executive curating information that comes from a variety of sources but with the common thread of how financial institution executives must think differently about how banking will be conducted in the future.  It’s all about small bits of information that can be consumed quickly in a variety of formats that are consistently delivered over time. An article from The Financial Brand. A Snarketing Post by Ron Shevlin. A live Facebook post from Eric Cook. Or a short video from my innovation YouTube channel.  Create an FYI email at least once a week but not so frequent that it becomes a nuisance (I realize that this cannot be codified but you should know your boss and bosses boss enough to know what annoys them …). Always with an accompanying note from you that says, “Saw this article and wanted to pass this along” or “Interesting food for thought”. Don’t ever press for any action; just keep passing along powerful information. The goal is to get the executives to ask you to engage in a conversation or facilitate a brainstorming session at an upcoming senior leadership meeting.  

Now, when your executive gets enough information from your drip campaign that he or she asks you to talk more about innovation, be prepared. Don’t wait to be asked to start thinking about how innovation can be implemented at your organization or even which areas should be the initial targets for innovation.  Start researching now. Talk with your peers (after all, they are just as frustrated as you are and would love to plot and plan how they would transform their institution if they got the chance …). Wash, rinse, repeat. Take on a new attitude about how to change perception about the value of innovation within your organization.