Jul 30 '20

How Innovation Turns Failure into Opportunity, with Erin Coleman

Erin is Filene’s Senior Director of Advisory Services and has a long history of working with credit unions. What follows is a wide-ranging discussion on why innovation matters in tried-and-true business like financial services, how an organization becomes innovative--the real kind, not just the buzzwordy use of it on websites and in press releases-- and most importantly, in a year as crazy as 2020, have the rules changed about innovation?

Holly Fearing

(00:00): Hello everyone. And welcome to the Filene Fill-In. I'm Holly Fearing with Filene. The Filene Fill-In is the podcast where we fill you in on what's been going on here at Filene's home base and out and about in the financial services world. Innovation is the process of turning failure into opportunity. We’ve witnessed how much of our societal and economic infrastructure has failed, or is brought to the precipice of failure, with any amount of stress put on it over the last handful of months. Smart organizations right now are looking for ways to infuse innovation into their very DNA: their organizational culture and create solutions to the most pressing needs of their customers, while energizing their leaders and teams. I wanted to learn more about how an organization gets there, how they shift their organizational culture to be one where innovation is fundamentally centered – and I know no better resource on the topic than my friend and colleague at Filene, Erin Coleman. Erin is Filene’s Senior Director of Advisory Services and has a delightfully long history of working with credit unions, including a pretty hilarious start in the industry. I’ll let you hear that story from Erin in just a moment. What follows is a wide-ranging discussion on why innovation matters in tried-and-true business like financial services, how an organization becomes innovative, and yes, I mean the real kind, not just the buzzwordy use of it on websites and in press releases, and most importantly, in a year as crazy as 2020, have the rules changed about innovation? Done well, real innovation helps your organization jump the line, to be first with a real solution your members really seek, applying your organization’s real-time greatest strengths to deliver what is needed. Through both structured and informal testing and iteration, real innovation is within anyone’s reach, your greatest opportunities are there for the taking, you just have to take them first. To all our listeners here, I hope you do reach out and grab hold of those failures you see happening all around us and apply a mindset of innovation to turn those into the opportunities we, as both consumers and business professionals, need. I know Filene and Erin can help you get started on your path to get there. But first, take a listen to this. So, Erin, today, I wanted to talk to you all about things related to innovation and your experience with credit unions that innovate and why innovation is necessary and what it can really do for those who benefit from using credit unions. So, can you start us out a little bit today with talking about your background in the financial services industry and what it is that you do in your role with credit unions at Filene?

Erin Coleman

(00:38): Sure. Be happy to, and thanks again for inviting me on Holly. This was a real treat. I started my career in financial services at a credit union in South Florida at Keys Federal Credit Union, quite by accident. I was looking for a job that would give me a little bit more money. And I looked in the newspaper, which many listeners will not remember this because it's after, it was before their time. But that was when you looked for jobs in the classified ads, actually in the newspaper. And there was a teller position, a part time teller position for $10 an hour. And this was back in the 1990s and I know I'm aging myself. And so I was like hot diggity that is a job for me. So I rode my bicycle, because everyone in the Keys rode bikes at that time, to the interview. And I had to take two tests, a word processing test and a spreadsheet test. And the word processing test was easy because I am a liberal arts major, but the spreadsheet test, and again, a reference to the far past was to create a chart and then a graph in Quattro Pro, which was the precursor to what we know as Excel or Google sheets. And I couldn't even spell Quattro Pro much less, I had no idea how to do this, again, liberal arts major. So I failed that test, but I asked for permission to continue working on it after the timed test was over. Luckily there were no other interviews scheduled that day, HR gave me permission to do so. And as I peddled my bike home, I thought, man, I really need to learn how to use spreadsheets before I get a career in business. And a few days later, the CEO called me, John Dolan-Heitlinger, and he said, Erin, this is the CEO. And I said, yes, hello, nice to talk to you. And he said, you know, you failed the test. And I said, yeah, thanks for bringing that up. And he said, you know, I also heard that you asked for permission to stay and, you know, keep going and you eventually figured it out. And I really do admire that. So while I can't hire you to be a teller, I noticed that you have computer experience in your resume. And I would like you to run our document management system. And so that is how I started my career in credit unions was by failing part of the test, but sticking with it. And this is the theme that we'll talk about a little bit more later, cause it relates to credit unions. So I ran IT for a couple of credit unions, also for Dade County Federal Credit Union in Miami for several years. And then early in the 2000s, I jumped the vendor fence and I spent most of my career as a relationship manager, working with both banks and credit unions, primarily credit unions, representing the credit union to the software company. So I worked in core processing, marketing, cards, remote deposit capture, document management and even technology consulting before I came on with Filene. And the real gift of those experiences is that before I came to Filene, I had worked with credit unions of all sizes and shapes, multiple levels of the organization, from entry level folks all the way up to the board. And I think that has really served me well in my role at Filene, which is to lead advisory services, which basically is a fancy way of saying consultative work that brings the research and innovation of the Institute to life for credit unions so they can make it actionable. And I have always been very passionate about making the words actionable. I mean, you can look at data on a spreadsheet all day long and unless you do something with it, who cares. And so being able to do something with the work that comes out of the Institute is really important to me. And I'm really lucky that I, I get the job to be in front of credit unions, until recently, very often teaching the work that we do.

Holly Fearing

(04:48): Yeah. I can see a theme already in your, just your career trajectory around how you yourself innovated and, you know, whether it was on purpose or on accident, it is interesting when we fail one thing to see how that turns into actually an opportunity. And I think innovation is, metaphorically, the same concept.

Erin Coleman

(05:19): Absolutely. I would agree with that. One thing that I've observed is that innovation happens in all these different ways. Most of which are quite small and not something grandiose and disruptive like a Tesla. Yet, that's the overarching perception of what innovation has to be, is it has to be some big life changing event. And in fact, it's the little bits and pieces that make the biggest difference and that add up to powerful change over time.

Holly Fearing

(05:51): Yeah. So that was kind of leading into my first question from your experience and your viewpoint. I wanted to get your thoughts on why does innovation matter so much?

Erin Coleman

(06:07): Yeah, I would say particularly in our space of cooperative finance innovation matters because it'll be the fuel that drives our industry. It doesn't exist in a vacuum no, I think it feeds the big bright minds, as we call them in the credit union space, to allow us to continue living that mission of people helping people, particularly those people that we serve. And we are so ideal for it because the magic of innovation is in understanding the needs of the people that you're solving for and building with those needs in mind first. And when I speak to credit union audiences, I often talk about our intrinsic super power as a movement. And that is empathy. We are well known for treating our members like humans and not like numbers and, you travel too, and when we ask people, when we're out and about, you know, they asked you what you do and you say, I work for credit unions. What I often hear is, Oh, my friend loves their credit union. My sister goes to a credit union, says it's amazing. My uncle has a loan, you know? And it's always, they think it's great because people know who they are and care about them. So we already have that superpower underlying who we are, which puts us ahead of the game to begin with. You know, where we struggle is we get these great ideas and we separate the empathy from the business of the credit union. And I often tell a story about painting the picture this way, right? You have a great idea or one of your colleagues does you get together, you present the idea and then you look around the room and you get scrunched face all around the room and the questions are, can the core support it? Well, who's going to do it? I can't do it on too busy. I can't do it. I'm too busy. And then you leave the room. Having made a decision often to not move forward with the idea or even explore it further without ever having asked the most important question, which is, who are we solving for? And what would the impact be to those people? Whether they are our colleagues, the people we serve, or the broader community potential members. And since empathy is part of our DNA, and we have seen that more than ever in the past several months with the pandemic and the recession, I think the time is right, today, to double down on practicing that empathy, to create solutions that will really matter to the people that we serve.

Holly Fearing

(08:51): And have you seen some really good examples recently, both in the industry and outside of the credit union or even financial services industry, have you seen examples of innovation that's really mattered and made a difference to serve unmet needs for those that need that innovation?

Erin Coleman

(09:14): Yeah. So I'll start with outside our space. It's been heartening in the midst of a lot of pain to see the innovation that has come out of what we've all been enduring. I'd say, you know, innovation around personal protective equipment for healthcare heroes is just incredible. I live in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a locally owned small business called Tangible Labs. They have 3-D printers and they usually use those printers to print marketing, tchotchkes for businesses. And, the owner, Mo, I know her from some other work locally and she's just fantastic, a serial entrepreneur. But as soon as the pandemic hit, she instantly went to researching, what is it that healthcare workers are going to need to protect themselves? Ultimately, after a couple of weeks of talking to healthcare workers and doing a lot of research, and she found the template for face mask and started canceled all of her other work and started applying all of her 3-D printers to making face shields for local healthcare workers. And she set up a campaign so you could give locally. And, since then, they have constantly been creating new iterations like adjustable mask strap adapters, so these are little pieces of plastic that you put at the back of your head, and then you don't have to put the loops around your ears and they could, they're called ear savers locally, and now she's been creating, they've been creating a headband for face shields that help hold them on your head in an appropriate way that's approved by the National Institutes of Health. So it's really, you know, heartening and inspirational to be part of a community that's full of makers and makers who care about making the world a better place and it's a great example of an innovation that has impact serving the needs of people in the space. Now in credit unions we've seen lots of, lots of examples of innovation that matters. And this is of course, including the immediate emergency loans. The coolest one I heard of was if you have direct deposit into the credit union and the credit union was able to determine what your average monthly salary was, and automatically granted you alone for one month of your salary interest free for 12 months, if all you had to do is say, I want it when the pandemic hit. That takes all the stress off the member, provides immediate relief, and it's easy for the credit union to administer because it removes all the burden of underwriting and so forth. So that's a really neat one. And there's lots of examples of those kinds of small dollar loans and work outs, et cetera. I would say it's also about remote working solutions, right? Because we keep hearing all the time of overnight, credit unions who have been reticent to move much of their work force to a remote space, had to figure out how to do it because there wasn't an option. And so the creative ways that credit unions have been able to manage that situation and have repurposed people, they don't have branch traffic. So, they've, for example, repurposing frontline teller workers to be call center reps as to manage that increased volume and training frontline staff to focus more on the lending aspect of their work and to conduct that work remotely. Those are both really good examples of how it was meeting the needs of employees. They needed to work from home. They also needed work to do, and credit unions figured out a way to do it, all in the name of serving the community. So everybody wins. That is beautiful innovation. But historically at Filene, we're so lucky to have this I3 innovation program. For those who don't know what that is, it stands for ideas, innovation and implementation, and it was started about 13 or 14 years ago now when our board said, love this research, but where are we going to do about it? And we said, great point. And so developed this curriculum. And I3 is now an internationally renowned program that is competitive and rising superstars in the credit union space apply for it and then serve a two year term where we teach them our curriculum. And then they set out, coming up with solutions to some of our industry's biggest problems, over that period of time. In 2008, an idea was created called Save to Win, which is prize-linked savings accounts. Since that time, it's gone on to win numerous state and national words, the rights of it were taken by the Michigan Credit Union League and now CU Solutions Group runs it. In December 2014, President Obama signed prize-linked savings accounts into federal law. And today there's more than 140 credit unions in about half of the United States who are promoting it and their website says that about $200 million has been saved. So that's really, really, an amazing innovation that had a really big impact on communities on people's ability to save and has really helped credit unions as well. And then an example at the state level is an idea called remotary, which is electronic notary services, that was created by a member of an innovation group sponsored by the Iowa Credit Union League. And it was created in 2017, got very positive reactions from member credit unions of that league. And then it was an individual from the team who created the idea who helped drive that idea forward. And, ultimately, it was adopted by the legislature, put before the governor and she signed it into law. And then when the pandemic broke and notary services, traditional notary services were not possible, she escalated the priority. And so it became active earlier than originally anticipated because of the pandemic. So it was a need that members in Iowa had, and then the need got escalated because of what was happening in the pandemic. And it got pushed forward even sooner. So again, another example of win, win, win.

Holly Fearing

(16:36): Yeah. I love that example because the remotary example is one where you might think in what situation would this be so vital? Like, I can understand a here and there situation, but it feels more like the fringe of somebody that maybe can't come travel to do the closing of their mortgage. I mean, it makes sense people moving, but like, you know, get on an airplane, just do it, right? But then we come into this situation that we're in today and it's the most vital situation to be able to do these things remotely. It's opened our eyes to the global need. And I think it's humbling to make us realize that we don't always know the world and it's not always going to be the way that it is at that moment. And so, we can't just cast it off as being like, well, this is only helping a small percentage of my people, or this is only helping, certain situations because the situation can change on a dime. It feels like the answer is so obvious because of hearing what you just said, but yet, reality is reality within a credit union and we want to be empathetic and we want to put the member first and start with the end in mind. But oftentimes the reality is we have to prove our business case. So can you speak a little bit too on the business side, on the actual, just like the financial benefits of a credit union, why would a credit union want to make innovation a priority in their strategy and in their approach to doing business?

Erin Coleman

(18:36): Yeah, I mean, it matters to the business case because if you're able to differentiate, because you are actually serving the needs of people, then that is good for you. And we hear it all the time and we observe it. Credit unions are never going to have the pocketbook of FinTech companies and they're not going to be, you know, venture capital funded. However, what we do have is we know our communities very well, and we have the power to effect change because we have many programs in place already that work. And what they require is tweaking to make them more useful and easier for our members and our employees to interact, to make the experience more powerful and impactful. We have all the ingredients. This is a matter of putting it together and what we see again and again, inside and outside the credit union space, is that you design a solution to problems that people have, not that you think they have, but what they actually have demonstrated and explain and show that they have, then it can have a very great business need. A great example is individual tax payer number lending programs. These are loans for non-citizens who are paying taxes, so taxpayers have not yet been granted American citizenship status. Our tests show and our incubator that members who get those loans, they pay them back more than 90% of the time. I think it's 94% of the time without any sort of default or problem and the referral business from those people is unbelievable and has a dramatic impact on credit unions and the health that they have and their growth and their ability to serve in their communities. There are many examples of that business case. And some examples of those are from our Reaching Minority Households Incubator and the Pathways to Wellbeing, and that's a toolkit that we just published in the past couple of weeks. Those are some examples of the business case. And I would be more than happy to talk to credit unions more about what that means. I mean, I think another point to bring up here is what I said before that innovation is not about a $3 million investment that takes six years. It's about little changes that we can make. Maybe it's moving the placement of a field that makes it easier to process a form. Maybe it's changing a process, so it skips a step and makes the workflow simpler. Those little changes that we make that are innovations, give us the time and space to every so often have a bigger, more impactful innovation. And then every once in a while to have a save-to-win moment, if you will.

Holly Fearing

(21:51): I love that example too, because with the ITIN lending, it is not a new program, so to speak, a mortgage loan is a mortgage loan, an auto loan is an auto loan, business personal loans that's the constant in this equation. And then if you're able to swap out a piece of documentation, an ITIN for an SSN, then all of a sudden you have a huge number of people that were untapped for your product before. And now it's just re-centering it on serving people. It's not the product that's innovating. It's innovating in the people that you can serve your product to, so it kind of flips it back and re-centers it on the purpose of credit unions of, of serving people.

Erin Coleman

(22:51): Right.

Holly Fearing

(22:52): So simple and yet so difficult. So I wanted to ask you about just your experience in your career. It sounds like you've gone through a lot of progression through organizations that have probably tried and failed and tried and succeeded at various innovations. So I wondered if you could speak a little bit to your past experience with organizations that have struggled and have succeeded with moving through their efforts to be more innovative.

Erin Coleman

(23:30): Yeah. I mean, I've learned so much both in my own experiences, working in financial services firms and also working with organizations but I'm going to talk about those organizations, because this is about the credit union space and not about Erin. So, here's what I've noticed that credit unions that succeed in innovation do a few things. First, they create a vernacular that embraces and foster innovation. So those idea boxes or idea inboxes that many of us have are a great idea. And when you take those one step further and publish a running list, that can be very simple, of those ideas and what happened with them who reviewed them when, and what action was taken. Then it helps to create a sense that the organization is eager to hear ideas from everyone. And by the way, that action can be, you know, we're not going to do anything yet or it doesn't fit, as long as you make sure that you're revisiting the idea and that you're publishing the decision so that it eliminates this thing that happens often where you hear I'm tired of presenting ideas, because I hear yes, yes, and then it just goes into oblivion and it disappears and I never hear about it again. And so those simple changes to the process of ingesting ideas could have a really important impact along the same lines when someone brings up an idea, replace that won't work with oh, interesting, tell me more. Again, that doesn't mean you're going to take action, but it does mean you're interested in hearing what people have to say and that it's valuable. And another example, and this is all under the vernacular, organizations with successful innovations and innovators replaced, "yes, but" with "yes, and." And just like you were saying before, it's another example of one of those, well, yeah, that makes perfect sense. And when you hear somebody say "yes, but" you don't hear anything else except for what comes after the but. If you say "yes, and" you're celebrating each person's ideas, building upon each of them and growing a culture of implicit trust and value in everyone's contributions. And that has a pile on effect that is very valuable to psychological safety and cohesion, which is necessary to building impactful innovation. I would say a second key is overcoming the misconception that failure is equal to an idea or initiative being unsuccessful. In other words, well, if it fails because it didn't come to pass or didn't have the results that we thought it would, then it's a failure. As long as you're trying new things, taking learnings away from each of those experiences and applying them to the next then you aren't failing, you're learning. And when credit unions embraced this notion, they are more successful in innovation. And frankly, their business results are more successful. There are some FinTech companies where failure is celebrated because it is learning. And every failure that is experienced means they're one step closer to creating a solution that really is successful. There are lots of ideas that fail, and many times it's just that the timing isn't right. And that gets right back to the list because if the timing isn't right at the moment for a certain idea, it doesn't mean it won't be right later or it might be an important component of a future idea or a future initiative. And letting your colleagues see that we're listening to your idea, and maybe now's not the time. And later when they see it is the right time and how it can be incorporated into something else is just really, really powerful. A service credit union up in Canada did this. When I worked with them, they started this as part of their broader innovation efforts. And it really has helped spawn a lot of creative thinking and excitement around the idea of innovation at that credit union. And then third, and this is really important and very hard in my experience for credit unions to do, is to execute. I've worked with so many credit unions to get excited about innovation. They're passionate about driving it forward. And then it gets lost among the list of many projects that are always numerous and probably too many that we have. In order to overcome this, successful innovative credit unions have an identified owner, someone who is accountable for driving the idea or ideas forward and reporting on the results, regardless of what those are. And it has to be an ongoing concern. Yes, you can, you should test it, see how that goes. But a commitment to innovation, and a commitment to innovation. See, I'm always practicing myself that "yes, and." Is a commitment to innovation means you have to keep trying you don't oh, that didn't work scared, scared. It's like that old thing that we saw, how I've seen happen. Many times, you have a process in place, an auditor tags you and it costs $5,000 to fix it. And that happened in 1998. And now here we are 20 years later and we're still spending $5,000 every time we have to fix that, and it's not important anymore. And there are other ways to do the work. You have to keep trying, you have to keep iterating, learning, trying again, et cetera, et cetera. Credit unions are getting a lot better at this, including the creation of those accountability roles. I'm seeing many more leadership roles that include the word innovation, and it's not just the word, but those are people who are responsible for coming up with and helping to foster new innovations, new ideas at the credit union and carrying them forward with testing and determining what the next steps are and working cross departmentally to make those real. And I would say that now is probably a perfect time to continue growing in this area while we're reworking roles and what work looks like in credit unions.

Holly Fearing

(30:16): Yeah. When you're on the cutting edge of any new development in any industry and your role is around innovation. It is about discovering something that has not yet been tried or discovered yet. And so I think what's interesting about what you just said is that I think the elephant in the room with business is that we have to somehow pretend like we have all the answers and that we have the experience and the education and the proof and the business case of here's what's going to happen if we do this, and here's the number we're going to hit exactly. And you know, the elephant in the room is that we're all making it up as we go. If we are truly trying to innovate, it's not been done before. So in that sense, it's like improv where the number one rule of improv is "yes, and." So it's a business version of improv, where you take the idea, the thing that somebody just said, and you say "yes, and," and you go forward from there. So I think it would do well for, for people to think of themselves as improv actors that are just making it up as they go. And that's not a bad thing, because like you said, you can fail and you learn something, nope, don't go that direction. Or you can find something wildly successful.

Erin Coleman

(31:55): Right. And it takes a lot of pressure off too, to say, I'm trying this out, I'm improvising. And if it doesn't work, then I'll try something else. It's a lot better than having to live up to that unrealistic expectation that you just mentioned about having all the answers and know exactly what to do next, which is just not true and never will be cause we're humans. Thank goodness. And we're not perfect. That's great.

Holly Fearing

(32:19): And if we have to be beholden to what we know, that would keep us stuck in that scenario that you just mentioned, where in 1985, they discovered this problem happened and now we have to repeat it forever.

Erin Coleman

(32:37): Right, right. Repeat the fix, even when it doesn't even matter anymore.

Holly Fearing

(32:41): That's great. So definitely, yeah. I think that our listeners should rethink that and break out of the way it's always been done with a sense of freeing themselves from having to have the answers. I think that 2020 is a great year to let everyone just kind of level set and realize that we didn't expect any of this. We didn't plan for it at least. So, it's a humbling and kind of level setting scenario. With everything that's happened this year and your experience of innovation, what do you feel has kind of changed about the need for innovation? And if you have any thoughts even on this, what is the future of innovation from 2020 forward?

Erin Coleman

(33:52): I think I'm certainly not the end all be all expert. My perspectives are, as you kind of alluded to it, as there's never been a better time to innovate, to shed the skin of, we have to know exactly what's going to happen. And if it doesn't work exactly as we think, then that's a failure. And say, you know what, we're going to try it because it gives us the ability to live our mission, which is to be people helping people, which is why credit unions were created, which is what our DNA is. And a great example of that is we do work with Mike Higgins & Associates, and he, during a pandemic did a couple of podcasts with us, which were extremely popular, around looking at your financials in a different way to say, based on my capital level, exactly how much money do I have for a reserve fund that still protects me financially. And he offered a worksheet to help credit unions figure that out. And because what he found in his consultations with hundreds of credit unions and community banks, is we're very, very conservative, which we know. And the impact of that is detrimental to the people we serve and we're nonprofits whose mission is to help others. So if we can stay in a very healthy well-capitalized position and help more people, now is the time to do it when we're in the midst of a pandemic in the midst of an economic recession that looks to be somewhat protracted based on what we're hearing from economists inside and outside our space. And we have an opportunity here and it's our job to seize it because it will help members of our communities. And that's why we exist in the first place.

Holly Fearing

(35:54): Okay. I wanted to do a couple "Top Three’s” because everyone loves lists. So, if you had to pick, what are the top three things that credit unions should know about innovation?

Erin Coleman

(36:12): First, that it's really important because it's a proven way to differentiate and it does not require the funding of Apple or Google. It is in fact, the little bits and pieces that we change along the way that make life better and solve real problems for our colleagues and for the people that we serve. And we talk a lot about a balanced portfolio of innovation at Filene. The vast majority of innovations should be those things like I mentioned before: changing the placement of a field, streamlining a process that provides relief, improves the experience and solves problems, not something that takes 17 years and it's like this panacea. It's the little bits and pieces and it does allow us to differentiate. Second is that embracing innovation has to be driven throughout the organization. You can start by inviting a diverse group of people to the table to talk about it, both from an organizational chart perspective and from an experience perspective, and then start there. Then third, it isn't rocket science. Like I said, it doesn't require a degree in engineering. It doesn't mean you have to be from Silicon Valley, although that's really cool too, but it's not necessary. You just have to have people who are passionate about helping to serve to serve others and passionate about getting to the root of what those people need and what they're really looking for. If you're doing that, then the feasibility and viability will come.

Holly Fearing

(38:16): Top three things that credit unions should be doing right now to be more innovative.

Erin Coleman

(38:24): First to put the person you're solving for at the forefront of your conversation, don't wait until after the, "well, here's how it's going to help us." The first question is who are we solving for and how is it going to help them. I think that's just super, super important. Our members are us, they are not a separate entity. We often talk about the member experience in terms of they and the member. And it's as simple as changing the frame to talk about the experience as if this is happening to me. This is what I am experiencing when I walk into the branch, when I go to online banking and I'm trying to find how to apply for a loan when this is what I need right now, because my family is in trouble because all of a sudden we've gone from two incomes to half an income, because I need to change some things in my house because every everyone's working from home now and we weren't before, and we don't have a house that's set up for that right now. When we talk about the experience from that perspective, and I see this all the time, I ask innovators to explain to me what's going on for the group of people they're solving for. And they say, well, the member does this and the member does that. And I'd say, thank you. Now I want you to explain it to me again in the first person. You are that person. And when they get it, when innovators get that, it is profound. And I get comments again and again, that that's one of the most powerful parts of learning innovation with Filene is learning how to think about ideas and problems in a different way, and putting it in the first person, because it gets you more involved in it and it's less like them-- it's me. And it becomes personal. And then that, that helps encourage passion. And then to embrace creativity, right? Creativity comes in many different forms. It's not just people who can draw or design, which absolutely those people are creative, but there's also creative thinkers. There are people who are creative in designing processes. There are people who are creative in creating different ways to engage with our members, or even internally with our colleagues. And each of those gifts should be celebrated. And even if they're super crazy, like everybody gets a trip on Space X, sometimes the best ideas come out of the wing nut thought. So that's where the yes and -- we shouldn't ever throw away an idea, even if it's crazy, added to the list and then something powerful can come out of it later. And third is to invite new ideas, actively and constantly. And again, as simple as amplifying the efforts of your current idea box or idea inbox to include a simple list, it could be in a spreadsheet. It doesn't have to be formal with colors and dashboards. It could just be a list to get started that opens the conversation and invites and proves, you know, you're walking the talk, we want your ideas, we are looking at them and we continue to revisit them to figure out how we can use them to solve the needs of our colleagues and the people that we serve.

Holly Fearing

(42:14): That's so inspiring. We talked a lot today about how that helps a credit union serve their members and serve their business purpose, but one thing we didn't touch on is that, hearing you say that, I always want to work for an organization that has that culture and that attitude. And what an amazing recruitment tool that is also to be that organization that can promise their employees that their ideas are heard, their ideas are explored, their ideas are "yes and"-ed and how powerful is that to use as also an attraction strategy.

Erin Coleman

(43:02): Absolutely. When we talk about the war for talent and how do we encourage more young professionals to consider credit unions as a career and not just a job along the way, this is a way to do it because inside and outside our space, we see that young professionals, those in their thirties and younger, they want to work and they want to spend their money and their time with organizations that care about making the world a better place, both socially and environmentally, and that's social direct connection to social, qnd there are also connections to environmental, but that's for another podcast, mission is how we were founded and who we are and who we are every day. Now's the time.

Holly Fearing

(43:52): Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, wrapping up, I wanted to give you a chance to talk a little bit about what is the one thing that you hope every credit union that you work with will achieve through the work that you're doing with them?

Erin Coleman

(44:12): Yeah, I would say the one thing is what I've just talked about. It's so funny, because I talk a lot about the one thing and you have to choose the one thing you're going to get done in a day, right. I have to practice this all the time because boy is it to get distracted with all the little things. And sometimes I'm not great at it we're always a work in progress. Right? But I would say the one thing is changing that frame so that we make the experience of our members our own, because we are them. I mean, we have the same hopes, dreams, fears, and needs as our members. And sometimes there's this pressure that's put on us as credit union professionals. We have to be better than, because we are giving advice to. How powerful would it be for you as a consumer to sit with, not across from someone in a tie, but sit next to someone. And that could be a virtual sit, by the way, who says, I get you, I hear you. And how can we help you? Here are ways that we can help you, not with a product, with a XYZ APR and a blah, blah, blah, but let's figure out how we can help you live your dream and achieve your goals regardless of what those are. And, like I said before, I've heard credit unions tell me again and again, I remember when you said that and I think about it all the time and people have seen me speak, see me wear these big sparkly glasses, which are the eyes of the member. And we often give them out in innovation work that I do. And I had one young woman come up to me at GAC, I guess it was not this year, but the year before. And she said, I heard you speak and wear those glasses, and I think about those every day. And that is, it's not about me, it's about the power of who we are and practicing that power by just changing the frame of the conversation from third person to first person.

Holly Fearing

(46:33): Well, I am personally inspired by what you've said today, and I am very excited that you are in this role doing this work, that your career path, for whatever reason accidentally led you to this point. But I think that it's such a great thing that you're out there helping credit unions, helping the credit union system see this framework and reconfigure to it. I just think that's so important.

Erin Coleman

(47:11): Well, thank you. I'm honored to be working in this space. It's a treat.

Holly Fearing

(47:15): Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners or let our listeners know before we let you get on with the rest of your day?

Erin Coleman

(47:30): I think that, you know, as we continue to learn more about what's happening to the people that we serve today, both socioeconomically from a technology perspective, from a work perspective now as the pandemic continues and our economic condition in the United States unfolds, you know, the current condition. I encourage us to continue to think about ways in which we can more deeply identify and understand what those needs are. And I mean, I was a supporter of Filene before I joined the organization and our research, and along with the work of a lot of other organizations in our space, that are focused on the needs of the people we serve, whether that's African-American Credit Union Coalition, Inclusiv, Copera, and also other trade organizations, you know, and the list is very long who are really committed to helping the beautiful fabric of our society. It's important.

Holly Fearing

(48:54): Thank you so much, Erin, for sharing everything with us today, this has been a really great conversation and I really enjoyed getting to interview a good friend on the podcast.

Erin Coleman

(49:08): Yeah, it was super fun. Always a treat to talk to you, Holly, and as you can see, I'm maybe just a little bit passionate about this. So anytime you want to talk about it, I'm in.

Holly Fearing

(49:19): Awesome. We will definitely have you back.

Erin Coleman

(49:22): Thank you so much.

Holly Fearing

(50:00) Alright, that’s it for the Fill-In folks, thank you for listening. And thank you Erin for sharing your experience, wisdom and insights with us all. It was so much fun to learn more about your experience with credit union innovation. If you feel inspired to learn more about bringing Innovation Workshops to your organization you can reach out to Erin Coleman directly at [email protected]. It also might be a good idea to check out Filene’s upcoming event on how we’ve worked with credit unions over the past few years to explore, test and implement new and novel ideas that have helped them grow while better serving needs of existing and new members. That is happening on August 18 and you and your teams can register, for free, at filene.org/events. If you liked this episode, please do rate us on Apple Podcasts so more people can find us! And make sure you’re Subscribed to the Filene Fill-In Podcast so you can keep up with what’s going on at Filene! You’ll find us on APPLE PODCASTS, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts! To get in touch about today’s show email me at [email protected] or find us on Twitter at @FileneResearch. Until next time. Thanks everyone!