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Tag: martial arts

Data Journey: Eureka & Meditation…Together

So your credit union is on a data journey. Congratulations! Wherever you are on this path, know that it’s further along than taking no action. And the insights you’ll gain will help you become a better institution internally and for your members.

A question I keep seeing asked is, “how long will this effort take?” We both know credit unions love their planning sessions. Predictability helps set other goals and focus priorities. Bring that question to a data expert, they’ll probably ask you another: “where are you today?”

It’s the Journey

Joe Winn Black Karate Gi Punch
Motion and stillness. Together.

A martial arts proverb imagines a new student and their teacher. The student asks how long until they will achieve a Black Belt. (As a Black Belt myself, this resonates strongly.)

“Five years,” says the instructor. “But what if I train twice as hard as your other students?” asks the student.

“Ten years,” the instructor calmly responds.

“I’ll train every day, all day; surely I can achieve that rank faster!” exclaims the motivated student.

“Twenty years.”

The moral, as you may notice, is that when you’re so focused on the goal, you miss out on the lessons gained during the journey. The point of gathering, understanding, and acting upon your data isn’t to be “done”; it’s to create a better credit union for everyone.

Science: Awesome. Often Slow.

Microscope and Slide
Think. Test. Observe.

Since I’m an old-school geek, science is an important part of my background and passion. For this topic, it’s also the grounding of what makes it “tick”. Some of you may have data scientists on staff to make sense of it all. Science rules!

It might look like scientific discoveries happen solely through “ah, ha” moments scattered throughout history. Electricity, zap! Density, eureka! Gravitational waves, groovy.

In reality, scientific advances come after a slow buildup of data, followed by a long period of analysis. Niels Bohr took years to determine that electrons “orbit” in stable energy levels. A black hole was only identified in 1971, though they were proposed hundreds of years earlier.

Data Journey: Essential. May Be Slow.

Binary Data Ball
Think. Act. Learn.

Ask Anne Legg, author of Big Data/Big Climb, if you can rush this journey. Like climbing a mountain or answering a question of the universe, you have to plan out the steps to take. And then be ready for slow movement towards insights and discoveries.

Will you stumble into moments of newfound clarity, where a big mystery of your members will suddenly become apparent? Quite possibly! Should you celebrate those memorable insights? Of course!

However, the real, lasting change at your credit union comes from “what you learn along the way”.

It’s an ongoing process that needs continuous attention and motivation. When you’re looking for a quick solution, it’s easy to get distracted and discouraged. Treat it like the scientific research it is. And don’t expect a single moment where your data journey is “complete”.

Make Data Discoveries Your Mission

Slowly, your credit union will discover improved ways to operate, engage staff, empower members, and provide for your community. Which sounds an awful lot like your mission.

Your data journey is the path to your other goals, though only if you take what you learn and implement, beyond just into your processes, but also throughout your culture.

Whether you’re working towards a Black Belt, looking into the deepest questions of the universe, or trying to figure out the best way to grow member relationships, focus on what you gain during the journey.

Achievement is a Moving Benchmark

Originally published as feature article in February 2015 issue of student newsletter at my dojo, University Karate Center. Then published on CUInsight.com

Training in martial arts isn’t easy. Same with any other sport or activity. Beginners think, “wow, everyone is so far ahead of me…how could I ever do that?”

As a reader of this blog, you gain valuable insight into my secret life…a martial arts student and instructor. I’ve trained for, let’s just say, a while.

Progress in Life & Training

During my time at the karate school, many students have come through the dojo. Some still train today. Others moved on to different phases (and places) in their life. Most thrilling is welcoming past students back after extended absences due to school, work, or family.

In all of these scenarios, there is a continual challenge of improvement. What do I mean? Well, when you’re doing a thing for a while, you are immersed in it. You gain skills at a nice rate. It feels good.

But then you stop for a long period. “No problem,” you think. “I’ll just get back in the swing of things; I know this stuff!” Except, we all know it’s harder than that.

What you remember as simple isn’t quite so anymore. But you’re committed! You train hard and help regain your previous skills, perhaps even with a deeper understanding. Good for you!

Sure, these are the seeds of a longer discussion, but today I want to focus on what I call the moving benchmark.

As You Improve, So Do Others

The benchmark challenge emerges for individuals both new and long-term.

One recent karateka, as students of martial arts are referred, asked a great question a few months into their training:

“Sensei, how can I become as skilled as the high ranking instructors here? Every time I gain a new insight, they show me another way in which I’m just a beginner.”

Sound familiar? Hint: This isn’t solely about karate.

As you get better, at anything, and you are (really!), those with more experience are as well. You are working towards a moving benchmark. While you train and learn, your teachers get better, too.

Avid readers know what happens now. It’s time to relate to credit unions!

Improvements & Your Credit Union

Paper Notebook with Graph and ChartThat’s a mighty fine marketing strategy you’ve got there. As is your website; the team should be proud. And your member referral program is stellar!

Of course, yours is not the only credit union working on making each area better. Another looks to the same improvements, yet has an additional 25 years upon which to build.

As we tell our students at our dojo:

“It’s not about how long it took to finally start training. You started. And you’re here now. That’s what matters.”

Emulate the Experts

Even Olympic champions look up to someone. It’s how we all work together to improve.

Don’t be discouraged if the expert looks like an expert. That’s literally the point!

Continuous Growth

Embrace our karate school ideals of continuous growth and replicate what works.

We also encourage learning from those both junior and senior to you. Just because they’re a white belt doesn’t mean a Black Belt can’t learn from them!

Finance Flowchart with Laptop on DeskFor you, that means looking to your competition, whether that’s a fellow credit union or regional/national banks. Then remember you’re not competing with credit unions! You can all learn together!

In the martial arts, we use the opponent’s strength to our own advantage.

While sweeping your competition onto the mat may be an untenable act, observe their “movements” (actions, strategies, etc.) and discuss internally how a similar approach might work within your own institution.

The road to Black Belt is a long and challenging one. Also, it never ends. Who says it’s any different for credit union success?

What Would Your Members Say?

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Imagine a room filled with your members. All of them. Ones who have made your credit union their primary financial institution and those who hardly know you exist. Offer each a blank index card.

A third grade teacher in Denver did this exercise with her students. What was asked of them? To write down what they wished their teacher knew about their lives. They could add their name or leave it anonymous.

Surprising truths flowed. One explained how homework was challenging because they didn’t have pencils at home. Another lamented delays in getting their mom’s signature on school forms because they didn’t see her often.

It was a moving exercise, and offered valuable, if heartbreaking, advice to the teacher.

Before getting back to the credit union talk, let’s make it clear: Teachers like her are doing important work and should be recognized/compensated as such.

Do you see how this exercise could be of value for your credit union? If you handed out index cards to all your members, what would be written?

When I’m teaching martial arts classes, I often ask a student what someone will do if they use a certain move. “I don’t know,” is a fair answer. How can you be sure of their reaction? Well, you do that technique, and see their response!

What will your members wish you knew? Well, you ask! We read articles daily about how to connect with Millenials and Gen Z. Like everyone else, they all want a say. They want a deliberate effort to engage, not a new promotion or product.

Connect and learn. What if it became an industry effort? Say, using social media under the hashtag #OurMembersWish. Now that’s @asmarterchoice I can support.

There’s a fantastic TED Talk describing one way to get into a mission, rather than product, centric, mode of thinking with a process called Golden Circle. You’ll recognize it in use with companies like Apple and Harley Davidson, in the engineers of SpaceX, as well as every non-profit you know.

The index cards? Yeah, they’re in that supply closet, just down the hall. Grab a bunch.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garylerude/2815430150/

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