Credit unions are a unique business. However, there are certain things that all businesses share. One of these is the need for innovation. Because the credit union business is constantly changing (now there’s an understatement!), it’s vital that credit unions keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve. And all innovation begins with a single, creative idea. But how do you get those creative ideas? Here are 7 ways that you, as a credit union leader, can get more (and better) creative ideas from your credit union team.
- Get them out of the workplace.
A change of location helps shake the brain out of its routine. It also gets people away from the multiple distractions of the workplace, which are not conducive to creativity. So try having a lunch meeting at a local restaurant. Maybe a nearby hotel has a nice lobby area for a small, informal meeting. If it’s nice outside, go to a park! Anyplace other than your credit union’s version of “Meeting Room C.”
- Give them the “What”; let them give you the “How.”
Nothing kills the creative spirit more than being micromanaged. Creative people (and we are all creative people) love being challenged. As a leader, it’s your job to set the goal (the “What”). Now, ask your team to come up with the “How.” Tip: prepare to be surprised by some brilliant ideas that you would never have thought of!
- Ask crazy questions.
When looking for creative solutions to your next credit union challenge, ask your team “crazy” questions. Questions like: “How would we solve this problem if we had $20 million to throw at it?” “How would a professional dancer solve this problem?” “How would three cats, working together, solve this problem?” Not only will this force your team members’ brains into their naturally creative space, you may just find the germ of an actual solution in some of the answers they come up with!
- Make a “play space.”
Creativity needs stimulation to thrive. People are more creative when they play. If possible, furnish one of your meeting rooms with a few toys (Nerf® balls, Legos®, etc.) and interesting, colorful magazines (not credit union—or any industry-related—magazines!). And, if you’re really serious about this, paint this room a shade of green. Studies show that the color green boosts creativity!
- Invite an outsider.
Every now and then, invite someone from outside the credit union (and, preferably, from outside the financial services industry) to sit in on a meeting. An artist, a comedian, an art historian. Someone who sees the world through a completely different lens than you or your team. This person might see solutions, or come up with ideas, that would never occur to someone from the credit union industry.
- Send your team out for a walk.
According to recent research done at Stanford, people do their best creative thinking while in motion—outdoors, down a corridor, or even just a treadmill. Many leaders have discovered the multiple benefits (including, of course, health) of holding “walking” meetings.
- Initiate “Plagiarism Friday.”
(Full disclosure: I plagiarized this idea from someone else, but I can’t remember whom.) Every Friday, have each member of your team bring in one great idea from outside the credit union industry and share what makes the idea creative and innovative. Then ask your team how that idea could be incorporated into the credit union.
- (a bonus tip!) Let your team know that ideas are welcome, encouraged, even required, from everyone.
No one has a monopoly on great ideas! That next breakthrough idea—the one that takes your credit union to the next level—can come from anyone on the team.
Creativity and innovation are the keys to your credit union’s success. Every new challenge (and it seems like there’s a new one every day) requires a creative solution. It’s up to you, as a credit union leader, to encourage, support, and value creativity from everyone on your team!