This past weekend was BarCampBank Seattle. We got into many good discussions ranging from the books were reading and why we like them, to technology disruption, to values-based banking (that last topic was mine, surprise, surprise).
At some point in the day, the incredibly wise Gene Blishen said something that I keep mulling over. We were talking about the need for business to be constantly growing, and he said…
It’s not about growth, it’s about development. As people, we grow for our first 18 years and then we stop growing, but we keep developing as people until we die.
I have always been puzzled by the assumption made by most people I’ve ever talked to that the goal of business is to grow, constantly. But I don’t think most companies deserve and demand the scale to be big. Some companies, some ideas, some leaders are better suited to be smaller. Why not crave to be the right size for your ambitions, your market, your desired size, and not be constantly growing?
I believe all companies and organizations, like people, should be constantly developing. Refining what they do, evolving it, learning and improving. That seems obvious. But I don’t think all companies should aim for growth and scale.
Almost six years ago Jesse Robbins held the first North American unconference focused on banking. How damn prescient in light of the financial crisis that would begin to erupt later that year and go full-blown a year or so later. Way before anyone thought of occupying any street.
For me, new to financial services at the time, it was a chance to form a community that has nourished me to this day. Many of us were embracing social media and met for the first time in Seattle on July 21st and 22nd, 2007. I wrote severalpostsaboutitat the time, including a sum-up on NetBanker.
We created a couple of BarCampBank BC sessions in the two years that followed (with the fun acronym BCBBC).
What I want to talk about…
I think the time is absolutely ripe for a continuation of the dialogue, but in the time since the BarCampBank days, I have changed my focus from digital to community investment. BarCamps, which come out of the tech and dev world are steeped in discussions about technology and its power to disrupt. Personally, I want to move past talking about technology and to something much more deeply rooted and philosophical. I want to talk about values-based banking. Because if community banks and credit unions don’t start increasing their relevance, there’s no need for many of them – perhaps most of them – to exist. And looking at the movement towards strengthening local economies, combined with a pursuit of more sustainable and ethical business practices, we have a giant opportunity to focus ourselves on something meaningful. Reconnecting our cooperative and local heritage to the modern, engaged consumer and citizen.
I look forward to discussing that with you. Buy your ticket now. And let me know if you’ll be there…
I have a new post on the CU Water Cooler site. It’s about how credit unions can be more strategic when it comes to their community contributions, their donations to organizations doing good work in their communities.
For the last year and a half I have been tangentially involved in the redesign of two of Vancity’s branches. It’s been an amazing project, looking beyond the expected excitement about new fit and finish within the branch, and at the kind of business we want to do within the branch and how Vancity can best bring its mission and vision to life in these spaces.
We call these two branches in South Burnaby and Port Coquitlam our prototypes, living labs that opened last month. You can see photos, as well as a video that shows what we’re trying to do and why:
Another Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium has come and gone, and it has matured into a thoughtful and even brave event. For me, it was a highlight of 2012 so far, and I think fair to say one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.
I have this experience a lot at CU conferences where the things that seem like the most important things we as financial cooperatives need to discuss are far from the things that actually get discussed. We stick to what’s safe, and don’t get into the challenging issues that credit unions face, or, more importantly, the challenges that people in our communities face. Problems that credit unions were formed to address.
The people who are drawn to come to the Symposium for a variety of reasons were ready to talk about some of those big important issues and stay with them. From the first presentation right through to the final wrap up, discussion after discussion about the soul of credit unions kept emerging. They took a variety of forms. Superficially, the discussions may have been about branding, or leadership, or getting employees on side, but down deep they were all really about our mission and purpose. That was the great throughline to the Symposium this year.
And for so many of the presentations the audience was so present, you could hear a pin drop.
I’m going to work on a post for the CU Water Cooler site over the next couple of weeks in which I’ll formulate my thoughts and go into more detail. I just felt the need to put something out there to wrap up while the experience was still so fresh.