North Island CU Implements i3 Process To Drive Creativity Internally

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North Island Credit Union in San Diego launched an innovation group to develop ideas for products and services modeled after the Filene Research Institute's i3 initiative, which was formed to stimulate the development and implementation of innovations via "next generation" credit union leaders.

The new group, ni- i3 (North Island Credit Union-ideas, innovation, implementation) has held two workshops and plans to meet again on May 24 (see related story, page 10).

"The meetings were a sort of a focused chaos without a lot of rules and you weren't sure of what you were going to get," said Geri Dillingham executive vice president and chief operating officer of the $1.5-billion credit union, and a founding member of Filene i3. "In my 18 years of working for credit unions, nothing has energized me as much as this has. You are looking at your organization and solutions where you can push the limits of creativity. We looked outside the financial industry. For example, the Aflack insurance company uses a duck as a spokesperson and Tommy Bahama added restaurants to its clothing store chain."

The workshop assignment for the 48 participants was to create something unique about a product or service for the May 24 meeting by using one of the three member promises of the North Island CU brand-ease of use, worry free, and fun. At that meeting, each of the four groups will act as a creative agency and "sell" their product.

"The goal of the workshops is to allow employees to bring the energy and creativity generated in the workshops to their daily jobs, which will benefit our members," said Dillingham. "We hope to come up with 12 ideas and one or two of them will actually work for us. Employees learn how to sell ideas in a large organization."

Instead of brainstorming, which often results in an unwieldy number of ideas, the participants used "edge crafting," a creative process described in the book, "Free Prize Inside!" by Seth Godin, published by the Penguin Group. Edge crafting is a methodical and measurable process that allows individuals and teams to identify product innovations.

Filene's innovation group can be easily replicated in other credit unions, according to Dillingham. "I think a lot of credit unions could embrace this; it provides energy and creative thought. The structure can be customized to fit your credit union."

"It is great to hear from participants like Geri Dillingham who are implementing the i3 model to evaluate member needs and find creative solutions to meet those needs," said Mark Meyer, director of innovation for Filene. "It would be great to see innovation groups emerge at credit unions and leagues around the country, as creating an innovation culture within each credit union is going to become increasingly important in today's competitive financial services environment. The focus of i3 participants is to develop and implement innovative ideas in small groups and test them for the benefit of the credit union industry."

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