When it was time for a new family car last year, my husband and I brought our daughter with us for a day of browsing and test-driving at a dealership. She enjoyed the free donuts, had fun at the steering wheel of the SUV in the showroom and loved the convertible that we took for a spin before our more practical objectives dragged us back to reality. All day, she seemed happy.
On the way home, in our old car, she suddenly got very quiet. The crying started a few blocks from home. "What's wrong, cookie pie?" I asked. "I don't know," she insisted. And I don't think she did know. But I knew.
Change is hard. Whether you're a kid who has to say good-bye to the only family car you've ever known, or a journalist who is trading in a print mentality for a digital one, or a banker who has to adapt to new regulations and shifts in consumer behavior, parting with the old ways of doing things rarely feels good. It might be liberating in the end, of course, but the transitions themselves are tough to cope with.
In banking, you hear a lot about how the old models are broken. That's a scary prospect for an industry that, despite the exorcisms of the past five years, remains weighed down by legacy costs and cultural obstacles.
There has been no shortage of warnings about the implications of business paralysis. If you've been to any bank industry conferences lately, including those hosted by American Banker, you've no doubt heard from charismatic entrepreneurs with upstarts like Moven and GreenDot, who make a good case for starting fresh, with customer-centric ideals that can be chased without much regard for legacy costs and bureaucratic malaise.
I'm inspired by the industry's out-of-the-box thinkers, and I think they serve an important purpose regardless of whether their visions come true. But I'm not convinced you have to blow up all the old constructs to usher new life into your business.
As tempting as it is to start with a clean slate where you can, there's something to be said for incrementalism. (Indeed, it's gotten all of us this far.)
Innovating in increments frequently prevents you from biting off more than you can chew. And it brings your customers along for the ride at a pace with which they generally can be made to feel comfortable. Remember, while they of course want you working on ways to improve their experience, they're at least as spooked by change as you are.
So the "Big Ideas" we offer in this month's cover story are not necessarily pie-in-the-sky suggestions; you don't have to be a startup with a long leash and an endless innovation budget to try what we're suggesting.
You might not be ready to implement all of our ideas at once (and even if you could, you might not want to). But just about any of the ideas on our list can be adopted and adapted in a way that's right for you. Even if you never open a branch in a converted shipping container, for instance, you might be inspired to think about other low-cost ways to test out a market or to temporarily serve customers in a disaster zone.
Speaking of new ideas, you might notice a few changes to American Banker Magazine. Our Commentary page, for example, is renamed BankThink, after the opinion portal that I hope you all follow on americanbanker.com. And in Briefings, you'll get more of the quick-hit news items bankers should know about. See, nothing radical-just a few incremental tweaks as we progress here.
Editor in Chief