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Seven Steps to Make Your Financial Institution More Innovative

The term "innovation" means a new way of doing something — an idea applied successfully. It may refer to incremental, radical or revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes or organizations. The best way to increase your institution’s effi ciency or effi cacy, according to Michael Bencic, executive director of client strategy for Harland Clarke, is to fi rst encourage internal idea generation and then, if necessary, team up with partners who understand the fi nancial industry. There should be a highly organized system in place where ideas can be captured, presented, reviewed, prioritized, funded and allowed to develop.

Bencic recommends that you implement the following steps to help foster the development of innovative ideas within your organization:

1 Create a culture that supports innovation and is willing to accept failure of some ideas.


2 Build a mindset based on consumer needs rather than products or business lines.

3 Set up a system that captures ideas across the organization. This means identifying thought leaders, regardless of rank, and actively encouraging them to think outside the box.

4 Talk to your account holders. Talk to your account holders. Talk to your account holders.

5 Encourage a “test and learn” environment, which means managing the short-term requirements of innovation while waiting for long-term payback.

6 Maintain a “both-and” mindset — a dual focus on minimizing mistakes and learning from them. Using left-brain (analytical) and rightbrain (creative) thinking can spark innovation.

7 Keep the process simple. Encourage free expression and discourage internal politics and posturing.

And to those institutions that are concerned about the wisdom of investing in innovation during tough times, consider these words from The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: “Some of our best companies, such as Intel, were started in recessions, when necessity makes innovators even more inventive and risk-takers even more daring.”5

5 The New York Times, “Start Up the Risk-Takers,” Thomas Friedman, 2/21/2009