Luke Williams challenges credit unions to drop clichés

There has never been a better time for you to be experimenting, Luke Williams told credit union delegates at the World Credit Union Conference in Denver. One of...

There has never been a better time for you to be experimenting, Luke Williams told credit union delegates at the World Credit Union Conference in Denver.

One of the keynote speakers at the event, Mr Williams specialises in disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship and cultural change. His book, Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business, explores disruptive solutions for businesses to thrive in a changing world.  

“I don’t take it for granted that everyone sitting in this room has a vested interest in innovation, but everyone has a vested interested in growth. If you have a vested interest in growth you have to have a vested interest in innovation because it’s innovation that drives growth,” he said.

Luke Williams is executive director at the NYU Stearns School of Business and a fellow at Frog design. Building on his experience at the design firm, the book shows how unexpected ideas can turn enterprises in successful ventures. His concept of disruptive innovation has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and the Fast Company. He is a globally sought speaker and has worked with industry leaders such as American Express, Sony, Virgin, Disney and Hewlett-Packard to develop new products, services and brands.

“People think innovation means being born with a set of personality traits. If you ever cooked a meal you have the same ability as everyone in the room to lead innovation. Take the ingredients that everyone else has available and just seek a new arrangement. Imagine yourself as a cook surrounded with new ingredients, looking at traditional recipes. If you don’t use any of those new ingredients, you’re losing opportunities. In credit unions you’re surrounded with new ingredients. You’re the generation that’s going to work out how to use these new ingredients to formulate new recipes. Go back to your organisations and generate a constant stream of new recipes. Even if one recipe fails, you will learn from it.”

According to Mr Williams, the challenge for credit unions is to be the disruptor. Technological developments lead to disruptions in one industry from another industry. The perfect example is Uber, he said, where mobile app technology is challenging the taxi industry. “Now disruption is likely to come from an indirect source. Executives are unaware of what’s happening in other industries, and this can cause disruption. Complacency is the most dangerous word for an executive,” he said.

Mr Wlliams believes companies spend too much time trying to get better at prediction in a world that is very difficult to predict. He encouraged credit unions to examine the way in which they perceive innovation. “Disruptive innovation is when you are having an impact on the market. Long before you get there you need to disrupt the way you are thinking at board level or in the community.” This is a process that needs to be treated as rigorously as areas such as sales forecast or marketing, he said.

“Organisations believe that more data is going to lead them to disruptive innovation. Data is important but it will only get you 50% there. The other half needs to be supplied by human imaginations. These disruptive ideas can shape into disruptive solutions then you need to make a disruptive pitch, and convince people. Disruption has to deliver value and you have to be selling benefits and not novelty when pitching the ideas,” added Mr Williams.

He suggested that credit unions used three filters on the path to drive innovations, examining clichés in terms of interaction, products and prices.

“All clichés are around for good reasons,” he said. “The richest area for innovation is where nothing appears to be wrong. It’s critical that you all surface the clichés, because there are changes coming into consumer behaviour that are going to conflict with conventions about how credit unions are ‘meant’ to work. Changes in behaviour of millennials and the generation after them, generation Z, who are using apps before they can even talk.”

After surfacing the clichés, credit unions can rethink the way in which they do business and give the organisation the opportunity to experiment and even be wrong, he said.

Mr Williams ended his speech encouraging credit unions to look at four aspects:

  1. Take your ingredients and look at how you can move as fast as you can in the opposite direction. If there’s a one-way relation between parties, reverse that.
  2. What can you deny? Take things out, it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the offering anymore but you need to take them out to have a chance to see.
  3. What can you scale? Exaggerate the scale. Apple did this with the iPhone, taking off all the buttons, leaving just one. You’ve been trained to react with ideological rigour.
  4. Cultivate an instinct for change. As you go back to your communities, it’s important to cultivate an instinct for change.
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