Some 'Quick Hit' Ways To Spark New Ideas

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Interested in trying out some "quick hits" at your credit union? Denise Gable, VP-strategic directions with Spokane Teachers Credit Union, and also an i3 member, offered five quick and easy ways to spark innovation.

1. Idea Desk. Similar to the long-lost "suggestion box," the Idea Desk is a way to encourage members and employees to offer up ways to improve the credit union. "This is especially useful with new employees. When you're new to an organization, you may have an idea but don't know whom to tell about it," Gabel suggested. "Create an e-mail address for people to send their ideas to."

2. Debates and Summits. One of the best ways to spur innovation is to create confrontation and conflict intentionally. The idea, she said, isn't to create hostile, negative situations, as the words "confrontation and conflict" imply, but by bringing people together to hash out an idea and ensuring that the idea is discussed in a truly candid way can and does create some tension that can be channeled into innovation.

3. Take A Stand. When discussing a particular topic, try putting a piece of tape right down the center of the room. Then, when it comes time to ask people what they think of an idea, ask them to "take a stand" by standing on the side favoring the idea, or the side opposing it. "Yes, you will have some people who straddle the line, because they're not sure," Gabel noted. "But you'll be surprised what you can learn when you ask people to take a stand instead of simply letting them nod their heads."

4. Ask For Improvement. "When you hand someone your idea, ask them, 'Can you improve this for me?' " Gabel advised. "It takes the pressure off. It gives them permission to add onto or improve your idea, and it gives them ownership."

5. Avoid Idea Stew. It never fails: you're in the middle of a meeting about cost cutting and someone pipes up with an idea about how to improve the drive-through-that's idea stew, Gabel said.

While you don't want to cut someone off from thinking innovatively, it's important to keep meetings on topic. And sometimes, it's not exactly off topic. Take, for example, a meeting about servicing ATMs, and someone comes up with an idea about marketing ATMs-one is a tactical issue, the other a strategic issue. Gabel urged credit unions not to lose sight of one idea or the other during the meeting, and to make sure to write down the idea so you can revisit it at a different meeting, she suggested.

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