Good ideas are the cornerstone of innovation and progression. They create giddy excitement in meeting rooms around the world and turn failing businesses into successes stories. So why aren't companies having more of them? And why are good ideas so difficult to come by? There are plenty of causes, I'm sure, but this is one that's been overlooked for too long. Its time people learnt to spot when it's happening and do something about it.
"Indifference is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don't stand a chance against it."
Those are Hugo Award winning American science-fiction author Joan D Vinge's words, and don't they ring true. This quote was banded around the agency I used to work in. It referred to, of course, consumers. In particular: their relationship and attitude towards brands. "You need to make people feel something about your brand" they'd say "good / bad, it doesn't matter. Just don't make them feel nothing."
another example would be:
"be someone's shot of whisky not everyone's cup of tea."
... granted that one sounds more like an ironic T-shirt slogan... but you get the point.
Recently, I've been seeing indifference in a different place. And its got me thinking that indifference at a consumer level isn't the problem (yes it is a problem... but not the problem) The problem is indifference within companies: the indifference employees feel towards their products.
I am not talking about apathy towards working. That's not what I'm saying. What I mean is, your workplace, without you even realising it, has programmed you to not care. Its not that you're apathetic or bad at your job, its that you've been brainwashed to separate what you sell from what people feel. And this happens everywhere.
Recently I heard someone say this:
"There is little to no room for new ideas in day to day banking, all consumers want is convenience."
I don't disagree with much of this statement. Innovation in day to day banking is difficult. And yes, people do want things to be convenient and often there is no room for new ideas when it comes to convenience. But if we changed one thing, one small thing, we could make room for new ideas. And guess what, I think they'd come easy. This is what needs to change...
Someone at some point came up with the term 'day to day banking'. That was the catchy term created internally that covered things like balance checking, bill paying and perhaps setting up standing orders or direct debits. That's how people talked about it and that's how they thought about it. Then they created teams around it. Appointed directors to direct it. Created different factions to manage it. And gradually 'day to day' became meaningless.
Someone took the idea of 'convenience' and wrapped it in 'monotonous' and left it there to wither.
But what if that person had called it something different? What if that person had called it something great? Something that described consumer behaviour and how the company added value? What if that person took 'convenience' wrapped it in 'adventurous' and strapped a rocket to its back? (metaphorically speaking) What if 'day to day banking' had been called 'make their day banking'?
Go back to that original quote and swap out the terms. Do you think, with this new title, you could find room for new ideas? Do you think you could make room for new ideas?
Adding doing-words to propositions, initiatives and ideas makes them actionable and easy to understand. With this change anyone in your business, even someone who starts on day one, can have an idea that could help create a better service. And that is the key. Are these new starters indifferent? Or do they care from day one? One small change and the cycle is broken.
I wanted to hear from people who are doing some disruption of their own, I wanted to know what the challenger banks made of all this. I reached out to Anne Boden, CEO of Starling, and Jason Bates, Co-Founder of Mondo and CCO of 11:FS - an all star digital banking consultancy.
“Banks should be more like great waiters and less like bad landlords”
Says Jason Bates. "A great waiter can be amazing without being the centre of attention during a meal." he continues "They can delight with their attention to detail, service, warmth, and anticipating your needs before you recognise them yourself." It's true, and I'll go a bit further and say that sometimes great service can make up for a disaster of a meal.
Anne believes "feeling comfortable' is dangerous for companies:
“Start-ups know they can never feel completely comfortable. They have to question everything. Push forward when it would be easier to sit back. Find energy and fight antipathy with passion.
She goes on to say that this passion is what's fuelling their "next generation bank" elaborating by saying "We are bringing together a world-class team who believe in transformation, asking the hard questions, exploring new ideas, and building new solutions that empower and inspire." But it was her last comment that sat with me longest:
"The fact is, there’s no room for repetition. Repetition is easy and day-to-day is easy. But the next generation bank is about tomorrow, something no one can be complacent about.”
If you look around your business do you have your own version of 'day to day banking'? Have a go and see what you can do with a bit of wordplay: changing it from what it is to what it could be... and add some doing-words. Then see if your attitude changes. See if other people's attitudes change. Then see if you can make room for new ideas.
Small changes like that are too easy and too valuable not to make.