CU Water Cooler

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Gene BlishenComment

It does seem that innovation is being constantly pounded as a key factor in how to make our credit unions resilient and alive. We have an ample number of innovation consultants now so we know the buzz word has created a new consulting industry. But what exactly does it mean to innovate?

I believe that part of growing is creating something in the future that is different from the present. This is a constant quest most are aware of and some partake of daily. Sometimes growing gets mixed up with another factor and that is one of developing. Though we may not necessarily be growing by creating we usually are constantly developing by striving to do something a little better than before. We learn by doing.

To innovate does mean some level of creation that is new. To do this means not to hammer out a summary solution but to bring forward concepts that can be actual prototypes used to solicit feedback. You innovate in small steps, inch by inch. The outcome you want in that original eureka moment takes many different forms and paths.

"You forget the long journey and all of its challenging nuances."

Part of the huge amount of energy used in innovation is that you design assuming the human experience in feedback and that is a messy domain. The reality in a product or service is always constructed with people using and living with it. Sometimes decisions are driven not by logic but by human emotion and their desire is more powerful that your reason. This constant iteration between product and human experience means you’re not in Kansas anymore. The challenge is realizing these new dimensions that are being played out and what it will take to get to the final result.

But when you have arrived and whatever you have imagined and innovated has been built and taken place, you forget the long journey and all of its challenging nuances. You may win awards or garner accolades but the greatest return is when the individual comments that what they are using from their credit union is a good and valuable experience. 


Gene Blishen lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. He is the General Manager of Mount Lehman Credit Union. This is a single branch credit union that started in 1942. It is one of the few single branch open-bond credit unions left in the Lower Mainland of B.C. Despite its small size, Mount Lehman is known for being one of the most innovative credit unions in the world.