How would a Credit Union become the “Bank” of the Future?

Bad News – Good News

How would a Credit Union change to meet the needs of the new networked customers?

There are two major elements in the new skills that you will have to acquire and one key attribute, Alignment.

  • The main work is Group Forming – Facilitating Community and Collaboration – Collaboration has to be your daily normal. You know that this is not who you are.
You will see that most of the hard work to get from A to Z will be based in your mindset and culture. To be successful we change this normal:
To this one:

This is not like learning a new credit skill or a sales technique. This is learning how to be a new and different person and a new and different organization. This is transformation.

To make this even harder, you also have to continue to run your old business in the old way as you grow this new and entirely different business.

No one can simply throw money at this challenge. But if you have the right cultural DNA, and you do, and you are smart and open, then you can do this.

Here is why this is so.

The Gap/Chasm

When faced with this kind of truly novel change, we all stumble.

When Dick Fosbury used this novel technique to win the gold medal, you might have expected all of high jumping to follow. Instead the elite rejected him. It took 2 more Olympics for the Flop to become normal.  (This link will show you the story of the Fosbury Flop ) This is what happens when a truly novel idea pops up. The existing status quo fear for their status and reject it. The better the new idea, the more they push back.

What happened was that the elite coaches and jumpers stuck with the straddle. They had to because their bodies had been trained by years of experience to go through the motions of that jump. They could not unlearn it. Even though, they coud no longer win by using the old. All they could do is attack it and laugh at it.

It was the kids who were not overly invested in the straddle that used it and won the medals. It was the coaches that were not linked to the straddle that coached them.

It will be the same for you. Even if you want to be the new banker, years of being the old banker will stand in your way. You will default to the old. The only way you can make the change is to set up a series of experiments where you do the new. Do it in increasing scale. Meanwhile you keep on going as you have done in your old business.

It will be the “New Doing” that drives the “New Thinking”. Not the other way around.

When enough of us have done the new and it has changed us then we can convince the others to come along too. This is the universal rule of “adoption”. More here.

You can and must start the really new small.

If you can do the new well enough to make the new you – as a small group – then you can ‘Cross the Chasm” and influence the majority to follow.

So this then is the work ahead. It will be a series of small projects that by doing them, you change and by you doing them well, you make it safe and ok for others to follow you.

By keeping the projects small, you can keep your old business going until what you have learned enables you to make the new the majority of what you do.

That is the path that KETC, Channel 9 in St Louis took to become “The Nine Network for Public Media”. Not just a simple name change but a total transformation.

They started on the path with a tiny project back in 2007. Moved onto a more challenging project in 2008 where they cracked the code and got the attention of the network. Who then funded a major project in 70 markets based on what KETC had learned. Since then KETC has tackled even more complex projects and is now a pivot in how the entire Public TV system is changing.

Why should a Public TV Station have anything to teach you and what are its lessons that you can use with confidence?

The Lessons – Using Trust

Why a Public TV station is like a Credit Union – In the US public TV stations (368 of them) are small, local and not for profit organizations that are either owned by their community or by an educational institution, usually a university.  Their role is to serve their community. Their ownership, scale and mission track yours. They are also up against massively well resourced and powerful competitors. They are to Media what Credit Unions are to banks.

This is the good news. Public TV Stations and Credit Unions share a mission and an ownership model that gives them the chance to become the new.

Their key asset was and is Trust. Their ownership by the community they serve is the central feature of this Trust. Just as Trust is the key asset for the New Banking, so it is for all things. You will see how Public TV is using Trust as the core of its focus on the future.

The bad news is that, like many Credit Unions, they have been strongly influenced by their major competitors. Many station leaders saw their future in becoming more like their larger competitors. More commercial, more about flashy content, more reliant on advertising. More Transactional. KETC before 2006 was not very different from this.

KETC then had one regular channel of TV content of which most came from the system feed. It had 2 local shows. It had the traditional view of its viewers/customers.

  • KETC’s Job was to put on the best TV shows possible within the mandate.
  • Success was measured in eyeballs and by donations by viewers. It was all about content. The better the content, the more support. The same as with commercial TV but with a twist a different view of content
  • The niche was content that was more thoughtful and a bias to kids with no ads! The only place many could trust to have their kids watch.
  • There was some minor outreach into the community centred on kids programming but little interaction with the community as a whole.
  • Other local non profits and artistic organizations were often seen as competitors or at best fellow travellers with similar funding problems
  • The station’s key relationships with all were much the same as any traditional organization’s.

Inside KETC, silos and departmental infighting were the norm. If there was to be any collaboration it had to be mandated by the CEO.

KETC interacted with other stations in a social way but there was no working integration. Public Radio was seen as beyond the pale.

The Path to Change – In 2006, KETC got a new CEO who saw the station’s future in a much broader role that took KETC back to its roots of truly serving their community. Jack Galmiche vowed to make the station not just important to the community but vital to it. This could never be done by simply showing more or better content.

Somehow the station needed to be the catalyst for making St Louis the best it could be. This I think is the question before a Credit Union as well. How can you be the agent for the restoration and the improvement of the community you serve?

Jack saw that the station could use its Trust to be the connecting force that could help St Louis come together to solve important challenges.

Not to be the solution or to know what to do but to be the safe and trusted “Connector” that could host the coming together of all the talent in St Louis to do the work themselves.

We did not know how to do this. So we started very small and in an area where we had many things on our side. We used the opportunity of a new show by Ken Burns on the War to do something that had never been done before. We asked the community if they would like to share their stories about the war. KETC would be their host and we would make it easy to participate.

To do this we also had to bring all the silos together to work on the project. We started to change the normal for how things were done.

The project was very successful. The relationship began to change. One vet came into the station and gave Jack his medals!

We then looked for a topic that was more vital. The Mortgage Crisis had broken out. Thousands were in despair. There was no safe place to get help and advice. The crooks who had got people into trouble were waiting like vultures to make it all worse.

With our experience in the War we convinced the Network to fund a small project – Facing the Mortgage Crisis – where we worked to connect all the resources that we could find who could help to each other and to the community. This raises an important point – once you start along this path it is possible to get external funds to be the pathfinder. Our challenge here was to pull back from trying to be the expert. Our role was to use our expertise in media to give the community its own voice.

As with The War Project, we used the project to change the work norms. All the station had to work together to get this done. We also started to learn all the new digital and web skills that we had not known before. We also put a project manager in charge to take the CEO out of the role of the go to referee. We used the project to develop new operational norms.

This was so successful that the network asked KETC to expand this work to all the worst affected markets in the US. Now many other stations could see that this role was going to make a difference for them and for their communities. It was not just TV but Radio as well. This was a cultural revolution. Public TV and Radio do not get along. Each market had at least one radio and TV station.

Now the operational issue extended from KETC having all its staff work together. Now the task for KETC was to learn how to get Radio and TV stations from all over the nation to work with each other.

As you can see, each step enabled KETC to learn more. As we made progress, others wanted to get involved. So did funders!

The list of steps goes on but I think I have said enough to make the point.

In 5 years transformation – Today KETC is now the Nine Network of Public Media – this is not a cosmetic name change but reflects a real change.

  • We measure impact, influence and readiness – We used to measure simple transactions – how many watched a show and who they were. We now measure what people who are connected to us then do. How have we caused them to act. We then use our impact results to “Attract” more resources. We also measure cultural readiness in our partners. We seek to partner more often with those that are ready.
  • It does better in traditional TV – It has 4 channels of TV now each aimed at specific interest groups – it used the new digital technology to expand on its traditional business. It has moved all of its local content online as well as on air. It has the largest viewership of any public TV station in the US. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.
  • Working with Radio is now normalThe Local Public Radio station is building its new HQ in a building that will be connected with Nine. KWMU was “Attracted In” by the Network Effect.
  • Sharing is now normal – Nine shares its expensive studios with Fox Sports who cover the St Louis Cardinals – Fox and Public TV are not thought to be allies but of course this arrangement makes sense to both.
  • Nine is a full media organization now – Nine has a online Newspaper as a partner working inside its building. In turn the Beacon and Nine use the Public Insight Network to bring in the opinion and knowledge of the community on stories. The Beacon was “Attracted In” – by the Network Effect. So was the PIN.
  • It has a school – the Nine Academy that teaches the public how to be Video and Film Makers. It has got into the education business and this leads into the consulting business for all the other organizations in St Louis who wish to learn how to do this. The Funds for this were “Attracted In” – People want to be part of something special that will help the community.
  • New operational culture has been formalized in a physical space – It has new premises where ALL work in the new operational reality. The Community Room has also been financed by resources that have been “Attracted In” by the mission.
  • It is the model for Social Group Forming in the US in media – The Nine Network is leading a national social mobilization effort to help communities combat high school dropout rates. This idea of using the Trust inherent in each station and the network has been proved.

So what does this mean for you?

It means that what looks like an impossible mission is possible – with the right leadership.

It means that such a major transformation can be accomplished without spending a lot of money and without upsetting staff and clients.

It means that such a transformation need not take a lot of time. The world is more ready for this now than in 2006 when we started to think about this.

It means that one credit union can start.

It demands that the first project be very small but designed to show the whole to all concerned. It demands that the Mission/Purpose of the ensuing projects meet the real needs of the community.

It all can start with a conversation.

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