‘REACH’ Tuesday Afternoon: Josh Linkner and Rick Metsger

Josh Linkner, Founding Partner of Detroit Venture Partners and Chairman/Co-founder of Fuel Leadership and the Institute for Applied Creativity
Josh Linkner, Founding Partner of Detroit Venture Partners and Chairman/Co-founder of Fuel Leadership and the Institute for Applied Creativity

Attendees of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ Tuesday afternoon general session during the REACH 2017 annual convention were in for a surprise when Josh Linkner spoke on “everyday innovation”—an idea that’s more readily available to credit unions than some may think.

Click here to see photos from "REACH"!

“In your credit unions, you oftentimes either win or lose in business,” he said. “But it’s those little tie-breaker situations—that little ladder of creativity—that can make all the difference in the world.”

Linkner personifies creativity, entrepreneurship, and disruptive innovation. He founded and served as CEO of five tech companies, as well as authored two New York Times bestsellers. He’s also the founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners, investing in and mentoring more than 100 startups.

He said creativity is our natural state—it’s how we are hard-wired. “But schools, jobs and well-intentioned parents can all deafen your creativity,” said Linkner, who currently serves as chairman and co-founder of both Fuel Leadership and the Institute for Applied Creativity, and is a regular columnist for Forbes, The Detroit Free Press, and Inc. Magazine. “Once-great companies can become intoxicated by their own success. They fail to adapt. But you owe it to your members to do better, to plunge into disruption instead of having it thrown upon you.”

Credit unions can’t expect to use the same models of the past and expect the same results, Linkner pointed out. No matter what your business card says, those in the industry need to adopt a second role: that of innovator, artist, and entrepreneur.

“These are mantras that allow us to win during these challenging times,” he said. “But you don’t have to be born a super genius. Everyone is creative. It’s a matter of drawing it out of you.”

He gave five obsessions of innovators:

  • They “get” curiosity. Instincts based on past performance can be misleading. You should pause to ask questions about the proposed solution and the problems at hand, and challenge conventional wisdom.
  • They defy tradition. Traditions in our professional lives can be deadly, especially if we find ourselves blindly saluting the flag of the past. When you find yourself about to do something, “Judo flip” the tradition upside down and experiment with the outcome. Those that compete with credit unions are thinking about ways to “Judo flip.”
  • They crave what’s next and have a willingness to let go. Sometimes it takes more courage to let more go and see what’s possible. We overestimate the risk of letting go, but we underestimate the risk of standing still. You may find a little nugget outside your field, borrow it, use it somehow, and create that much more value for you and your organization.
  • They get scrappy. Too often we think we can only be innovative if we had more time, money and resources. But we forget about grit, determination, tenacity, and resilience. If you find yourself in a resource-constrained environment, that’s a creativity heatmap for you. You can fill in those gaps with creativity. Sometimes you can harness imagination instead of external resources.
  • They adapt fast. The myth of innovation is that it’s a single lightning bolt of thought and implementation, but that’s not true. Innovation is an idea of flaws. So take the pressure off! You don’t have to reinvent the credit union industry. Wrap your creativity around your current initiatives. Little creative acts is what fuels innovative progress.

NCUA Board Vice Chairman Rick Metsger
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board Vice Chairman Rick Metsger addressed attendees on how important it is for the cooperative movement to work together to solve problems—and regulators too.

“At NCUA, if we want to advance the credit union system, we need to find solutions,” Metsger said. “There’s no political side to a cooperative. It truly is—and should be—about people helping people. You have different ideas, but you all have to help your members succeed.”

Using “REACH” as an acronym, he shared his thoughts on what each letter means to him:

  • “R” is for “Relevance.” As a regulator, the agency must make sure it remains relevant to the system. It must be willing to change. Within credit unions, relevance is extremely important as well. It’s about “how” you deliver products and services, because “how” you serve your members today isn’t going to be how you need to serve them tomorrow.
  • “E” is for “Efficiency, Effectiveness and Evolutionary.” The NCUA has implemented a full top-to-bottom review of regulations, rules and efficiencies. Moreover, “Is your credit union as efficient as it can be? How can you be more effective? Are you evolutionary?”
  • “A” is for “Asset Diversification.” Your credit union’s asset base needs to be diverse. The agency’s leaders don’t know what the future holds when it comes to the economy and future risks. So it has to make sure credit unions have an asset portfolio that is safe and sound, but also reflects the diversity of their members.
  • “C” is for “Capital.” You have to make sure your credit union stays open year after year to serve your members. You need capital—but sometimes you can have too much capital. It’s a balancing act.
  • “H” is for “Honor the Heritage of the Credit Union System.” Remember the heritage of why it’s so important to have a not-for-profit cooperative, and show this to your political leaders.

“This will guarantee that 110 million Americans have a cooperative still around for their future,” Metsger added. “As a regulator, if I may use a hockey example, we have to look at not where the puck is going but where it may go. As a credit union serving your members, I implore you: Don’t skate to where the puck is. Go to where your members are going next.”

Pin It