Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: evolution

Shifting Baselines & Your Credit Union

Originally published on

Ever visit someplace from childhood and think, “wow, I remember it being bigger”? Go back a few times or ask your kids (who are there for the first time) and all seems normal. You’ve just experienced Shifting Baselines.

It’s All In Perceptions

Think of it as a change in the perception of normal. I’m not talking about how your impeccable teenage styles seem ridiculous now. Let’s be honest, flower headbands will always be cool (as will bow ties). This is about one person’s standard becoming another’s outlier.

You may not be familiar with the term, and that’s ok. I’ve only seen it used when discussing environmental change. Even then, only in the oceans; fish size, abundance, and all.

But you’re in luck! I happen to have a background in ocean policy and marine science. It’ll come back around to credit unions, I promise.

The Salty Dog & New Fisherman

Let’s paint a scenario so everyone can grasp Shifting Baselines. We have two fishermen: one, an old salty dog, another freshly joining the industry. The former sings shanties of days gone by, the latter just waits for their first day on the water. Here’s where the trouble begins:

  • Our salty dog (lifelong fisherman) considers a “big fish” 150 lbs. and a “good” catch 1,000 lbs.
  • The newbie (no prior experience in area) is excited to reel in a “big fish” weighing 50 lbs. and sails home with a “good” catch netting (forgive the pun) 400 lbs.

Do you see the issue? What is great for one is ruin for the other. However, the new fisherman has no memory of the “better days” and instead considers their first day the norm. When our salty dog leaves the industry, their standard and memory goes with them.

Things Got Worse. No One Noticed.

Moving forward, smaller fish and fewer of them is expected (without ever realizing the loss). Yet we know the past really was brighter. In fact, who’s to say our old fisherman wasn’t reminiscing over already diminished catches? Maybe their elders sang of even larger fish!

Shifting Baselines In Your Credit Union

Are you suffering from Shifting Baselines in your credit union? Take the opportunity to speak with your longest-serving staff, board members, and even members. Get their take on how the institution has evolved. Are the new normals for the better?

Within the marine realm, Shifting Baselines almost always represent a loss. Does your credit union share the trend, or has the baseline improved?

If I walked in to your branch, my standard would begin at that moment. If compared to a member from 50 years ago, would I be pleasantly surprised or disappointed?

Do you have stories from your credit union’s “old salts”? Share them here or with me on Twitter at @JoeCUGeek.

For more information on how Shifting Baselines applies to our oceans, visit Smithsonian Ocean Portal.

Image credit: Me

Holiday Wishes – Geekified

As another year comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes out into the credit union industry…and beyond! (Geekification #1: Toy Story)

It’s been an incredible year for credit unions and their members. With unprecedented gains and continued membership growth, the industry is poised for a surge into new avenues. Understanding events occur in cycles (Calm Before the Storm, anyone?), we are thrilled for the success already had, and look forward to implementing processes to ensure growth no matter what the markets may throw.

The Doctor once said, “We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” (Geekification #2) Think back to the end of 2014. What has changed since then? About you? About your members? Or your credit union? If you can acknowledge it’s all for the better, fantastic! (Geekification #3: 9th Doctor’s catchphrase) Take the good with the bad, and create something greater from the parts.

Leaning into 2016, we’re on the precipice of great changes. For the first time since their creation, the credit union (and banking) industry is undergoing fundamental evolution. Rest on your laurels during this new chapter at your own risk. Remember that credit unions and banks is not Hogwarts versus Voldemort (Geekification #4), but rather, a closer interaction akin to Harry and Draco (Geekification #5), where they only believe themselves to be enemies. At the end (spoilers!, which also could be Geekification #6), they realize that they are quite similar, only separated by a different upbringing, and work together towards a unified goal.

For everyone celebrating throughout this month, I wish you a Happy (post) Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, New Year, or whatever brings friends and family together! In the words of the Avengers…Assemble! (Geekification #7)

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