Article

Pandemic Pushes Innovation on Delivering Existing Promises

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Contributing Writer

3 minutes

Credit unions should be creative about boosting existing products and services, but don’t forget how to develop new solutions in the months to come.

The current operating climate is chaotic, so should you: a) hunker down (remotely) and try to carry on as close to normal as possible, or b) decide this is the perfect time to innovate and try something new?

Executives around the world have considered this question over the last seven months as they have struggled to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its continuing impact on their businesses. 

Some credit union managers say the answer is definitely b. Now is the time for change, when everyone is open to new ideas and new techniques, so you should take advantage of this and try different ideas. 

“The pandemic has given people the opportunity to come up with new ways to do things,” says Kent Zimmer, who has managed the NextUP innovation program at Members Development Company, a credit union service organization in Madison, Wisconsin, owned by nearly 70 large credit unions. “You have to be innovative right now, ... and not just for the next one or two months. I think the pandemic has added to innovation.”

Zimmer notes that some businesses are talking about not going back to working in the office, because they’re shocked at how productive people have been remotely. “We didn’t realize how productive people would be working from home,” he says. 

Innovation consultant and fintech expert Rich Turrin, warns organizations should be careful during the pandemic and not bite off too much. 

“This is not the time for big innovation challenges,” Turrin warns. “Companies are better to focus their innovation on productivity problems they are having in this transitional period.”

For example, Turrin, author of Innovation Lab Excellence: Digital Transformation from Within, recommends credit unions go now for easy wins and make changes that “put out any immediate fires that are causing stress for your staff or clients. This is not the time to take on long innovation projects.”

Gallup’s advice is to be creative, not innovative. Launching a whole new product or service during a time of crisis may confuse your customers and overwhelm stressed employees. For most organizations, now is the time to stay in your comfort zone and focus on consistently delivering on the promises you have already made to your customers, adapted to their current reality.

Innovation expert and author Alf Rehn worries that the pandemic may in fact be killing innovation. 

“We are staring at the possibility of a true innovation crisis because obviously in the next 12 months, we can survive without all that much innovation,” he says.

But he fears companies and governments will cut their research spending this year, just as their staff face new challenges.

“If we shrink corporate investment in R&D, governmental investment in R&D and have a situation where a lot of people feel their mental health is challenged, we are eradicating the innovation pipeline,” Rehn says, noting we may not recognize the importance of these developments for many years.cues icon

Art Chamberlain is a writer based in Campbellford, Ontario, with almost 15 years of experience working with and writing about credit unions.

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