Speakers & Personalities Inspire Credit Union Leaders at REACH

(L-R, clockwise) Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter; Jessica Kriegel, Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture at Culture Partners; Elissa McCarter LaBorde, President of World Council of Credit Unions; and Andrew Davis, CEO of Monumental Shift Inc.
(L-R, clockwise) Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter; Jessica Kriegel, Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture at Culture Partners; Elissa McCarter LaBorde, President of World Council of Credit Unions; and Andrew Davis, CEO of Monumental Shift Inc.

REACH 2022 is finished, but the spirit of cooperation and innovation among California and Nevada credit union leaders is moving forward as they set their sights on 2023 and everything the world of technology and disruption has to offer.

(View/download conference and event photos from the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery)

This year’s 2022 annual conference from Nov. 1 – 4 in Palm Desert, CA (last week) — and hosted by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues — is one of the industry’s exclusive events, drawing leaders and system partners from across California, Nevada, and the entire nation. New relationships were forged and existing bonds strengthened as professionals found collaborative ground to champion credit union members and their financial wellbeing.

More than 700 attendees gathered to engage in the following discussions, riveting presentations, networking opportunities, and other premier experiences: 

Andrew Davis
“The cube of creativity” was in focus during REACH 2022 as Andrew Davis — author and CEO of Monumental Shift Inc. — discussed “inside the box” thinking and “embracing constraints” strategy on the last day of the Leagues’ annual conference.

“Plan your work — and work your plan” is normal-course thinking for many business and organizational leaders. But the way these plans come together is usually chaotic and can set credit unions back a few steps, all in the name of moving forward. Timelines and deadlines are oftentimes pushed back, and budgets are overextended.

Why does this happen?

“Maybe it’s not the plan that’s most valuable,” Davis said. “Maybe it’s the unlimited possibilities we discuss in those planning and brainstorming meetings that are most valuable.”

His point: constraints breed the creativity professionals and leaders are looking for as they dive into new challenges. The heavier the constraint, the more creative individuals become in the workplace.

“The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to ask: What happens when every business in the world is faced with the exact same disruptive forces?,” Davis said. “Some floundered and struggled to survive, but others saw success.”

Davis discussed how legacy and stellar businesses and brands were oftentimes born out of the worst of times. Executives can use constraints to fuel growth and drive better outcomes, with no global pandemic required. He said small bets with massive constraints can yield outsized results.

A notable 2021 business survey asked CEOs across the globe how they were progressing on their pre-pandemic digital transformation plans. The average response given was that organizations and companies were an astounding “seven years ahead of schedule” — an amazing adaptation.

“Parkinson’s Law says that your work expands to the time you’ve allotted,” Davis said. “But this doesn’t explain nearly everything happening during the pandemic. In fact, what we saw during the pandemic was very, very different.”

What did so many companies and organizations have in common during the pandemic and thereafter? They didn’t go looking for “outside of the box” thinking, he said. They started asking their audience, their customers, and inviting employees to give them simple ideas on how they could execute operations in a specific way.

Embracing constraints takes professionals and leaders into new ideas to power their teams. Leaders can do this by: eliminating the unnecessary, defining the outcome, limiting the options, and raising the stakes. Within these parameters, they should remember they will encounter stress, panic and confusion on the way to achieving progress.

“You need the cube of creativity to start thinking inside the box,” Davis added. “Use constraints to come up with solutions.”

Jessica Kriegel
“Intentional culture” took center stage during REACH 2022 as Jessica Kriegel — author and chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners — discussed what workplace and corporate culture really means in today’s world on the last morning of the Leagues’ annual conference.

“The war for talent is over — and the talent has won,” Kriegel said, noting how defining and developing culture must start at the very top of every company or organization. Also, it doesn’t end at the top since “there is no commonly defined definition of workplace culture today.”

According to surveys, 35 percent of American workers say they would “pass” on the perfect job if they felt the company’s culture wasn’t a good fit for them.

“You could hand your candidate a dream job, and there’s a good chance they’ll pass,” Kriegel said. “What’s more, nearly 70 percent of Americans place greater importance on benefits and corporate culture than on salaries.”

She told credit union leaders that if they are operating in a culture of fear, that’s part of the problem. Today, organizations should start with “equanimity”: staying calm during the storm. For instance, when it comes to today’s fears of an economic recession, most companies and organizations should stay calm and not institute mass layoffs, which only leads to efforts to make up for lost time over the long run.

“But what is culture?,” Kriegel said. “It’s been defined by many as ‘the way we do things around here.’ Or it’s, ‘I know it when I see it.’ Or it’s the ‘complex whole.’ These all sound good, but how do you transform culture when you’re dealing with all of these definitions?”

Culture, one prominent researcher says, is “the smell of the place.” To that, Kriegel added, culture is “the smell test.” There are some companies creating a downtown city culture, but unfortunately they are simultaneously expecting employees to act like they are working in a beautiful forest.

“Culture is not about feelings; it’s not about making people feel happy,” she said. “Leaders who do this are failing to leverage the power of culture to get results. And culture is what gets results.”

It doesn’t take making people happy through setting up ping-pong tables, fun spaces, scheduled nap times, or “thirsty Thursdays.” These don’t drive results.

Instead, culture is the experiences shaping our beliefs, which drive our actions and bring results. The normal course of action for leaders and professionals is to take actions, adopt beliefs, draw conclusions, make assumptions, add meanings, select data, and observe data. However, defining and developing culture is much more than this.

Kriegel gave an inspired perspective on managing and championing culture transformation — that it’s entirely possible, and even simple. She laid out proven steps to cultivate an intentional culture that powers credit union business strategy and accelerates performance.

Culture is much more than meets the eye. “It’s not some cool workplace trick — it is the nature of workplace humanity,” she said.

Jeremy Gutsche
“Innovation is not fluffy — it’s science,” said Jeremy Gutsche, opening keynote speaker during REACH 2022 on Wednesday afternoon, and founder-CEO of Trend Hunter, one of the world’s top trend firm and innovation consultancies.

During the Leagues’ annual conference, Gutsche — a worldwide expert on “innovating through chaos” — discussed seven traps within business mindsets that can slow leaders and organizations down: subtlety of disruption, neurological shortcuts, traps of success, optionality, linear thinking, discomfort, and ease of inaction.

To retrain one’s brain to proactively hunt for opportunities, credit union leaders can bring teams together, proactively solicit ideas, fund creative hobbies, track trends in other markets, and run ongoing workshops with teams.

“As credit unions, you have membership loyalty — and you have a way to connect through that,” Gutsche said. “There’s a different relationship you have with individuals. You can use this to embark on what’s next.”

Gutsche’s book — Create the Future: Tactics for Disruptive Thinking — teaches business leaders how to think disruptively, providing specific steps to create real innovation and change. It combines his high-energy provocative thinking with tactics that have been battle-tested through projects with leading innovator companies.

During his presentation, he diagramed four steps businesses and organizations can take in various periods of history: First, individuals are normally “path dependent” (feudal systems, industrial age, internet age). Second, they enter a crisis (the Black Plague, Spanish Flu, or COVID-19 pandemic). Then they go through a new period of chaos and try making up for lost time (the Renaissance Era, the “Roaring 20s,” wand the upcoming new roaring 20s of the 2020s). Finally, they rechart (the Middle Ages, the modern age, and the future).

“Chaos creates opportunity,” Gutsche said. “During recessions, some of the most iconic organizations are founded.”

He further described periods in history: “The Grand Reprioritization” of money (big box versus local), class (support versus refute), business (robots versus people), politics (United States versus China), generations (baby boomers versus Millennials), careers (work-from-home versus in-office), life (products versus experience), leisure (old life versus hobbies), media (big media versus creators), luxury (save versus splurge), science (vaccinate versus don’t vaccinate), business (work versus quit), and risk (borrow versus pay debt).

Credit union leaders can use a series of tactics to realize how close they are to their next big breakthrough — especially in an era of huge change such as today, Gutsche said.

“What opportunity lies so close within your grasp?,” Gutsche asked. “All of you have some extra level you can perform at, whether a role, a product, a service idea, or a new way of doing things.”

Elissa McCarter LaBorde
World Council of Credit Unions President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde opened the general session at REACH 2022 on Thursday, reminding industry leaders and attendees they are part of a global system of 393 credit union members across 118 countries.

“Think about that for a minute,” McCarter LaBorde said during the Leagues’ annual conference. “Think about how we can deliver better products and services to people all over the world in a fair way that’s affordable and drives financial inclusion to the underserved, rural communities, and small towns. That is the credit union business model at its best.”

Credit union leaders should consider the global experience, she said. Credit unions are called by different names in different global markets, but they are all cooperatives with the same principle of member-owners and democratic control, investing back into their local communities. It’s a “really powerful business model in today’s time of crisis and potential economic upheaval,” McCarter LaBorde said.

Two points she wanted to get across were: In the United States, there’s a wealth of activities that credit unions are doing that everyone can learn from across the world. Second, it takes “strength in numbers” to drive policy changes and reduce regulatory burdens across the globe — “so we need to measure this impact in aggregate,” she said.

“In my first year at World Council, I’ve seen so many examples of credit unions that are deep into engaging their communities and serving younger members — and getting the next generation to understand what credit unions are all about,” she said. “The areas we need to define in the future for products and services, we can build resilience there. And other credit unions are building tools to mitigate risk and adapt to changes in the climate. The fact is: we are being disrupted, and your members need the education and tools to weather shocks that are happening on a much more frequent basis.”

She hammered home the point that credit unions need to collaborate positively in aggregate to drive the collective experience around the world, where policy decisions can be influenced on a global scale.

“We are an essential provider within the financial system,” McCarter LaBorde said. “Engage with us at the World Council. Be a part of our global learning journey, be part of the movement, and help us drive change in a way that works for all of our members across the world.” 

Stay Engaged During REACH
Attendees and League staff will be sharing photos, comments and memories through Twitter (@CUatREACH), LinkedIn (#CUatREACH), and the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery. 

REACH is one of the credit union industry’s premier annual events, attracting leaders and system partners from across California, Nevada and the United States. This year it’s held from Nov. 1 – 4 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, CA!

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