5 new year resolutions for innovators in banking

Here are some New Year resolutions for the growing group of bankers who are adding “innovation” to their do-to list in 2016. Getting these right will greatly improve your chances for success in the new year.

1. Define your innovation goals

So, what do you want to get out of your innovation program?

Incremental improvements or radical disruption?

Catching up to competitors or breaking new ground?

Renewing existing capabilities or creating new ones?

Updating your offerings or launching new products?

Pushing more ideas from the top down or bubbling more from the bottom up?

A focused challenge or a broader initiative across business lines?

Define your innovation goals and align your team and your priorities accordingly.

2. Take your innovation program seriously

Hopefully, you are doing this because you recognize that the world is changing and that companies in every industry have to change and adapt with it– to retain your current customers, to acquire new ones, to generate new revenues, to stay relevant.

Innovation shouldn’t be the flavor of the month or something that someone from your executive committee wrote down at the “strategic offsite” as a box to check off for the next board meeting. It should be part of the way you do business. Part of your DNA.

Put the right people in charge. This isn’t the place to park your retiring executive or the place to create some resumé padding for your up and comers. Find smart and curious people who challenge the status quo. Get some outside help. There’s a pretty good chance that starting an innovation program is significantly different than anything you have managed before, and many of the instincts and experiences that have led to your current successes might actually get in the way.

3. But not too seriously

Create a sandbox where people are free to experiment and test and try new things. Don’t force your normal ROI metrics on an innovation project that is really unique, disruptive or conceptual. If you do, you’ll end up watering it down to something much more incremental. That might be OK, but you also might miss out on something that could really differentiate you from your competitors.

Truly transformational ideas take a while to build and test and get traction, don’t throw all of your resources into one massive project. Start with some smaller projects where you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes.

4. Focus on learning

Get out of the office and learn from what others are doing. Meet entrepreneurs who are coming up with new solutions that you might be able to use– many of them want to partner. Look at new ideas from different industries and think about how they might be applied. Read more!

We have a tendency in the banking industry to develop new ideas inside our own four walls, validated only by our own people, inside our own echo chambers.

5. Focus on the customer

Innovation isn’t necessarily about cool technology. The most successful ideas are those that solve a real pain point or create an important gain for a customer.

Don’t be afraid to get customers involved early. Talk to them. Even better, watch what they do. What workarounds have they created to fill gaps between existing offerings? What products or services are they using from your competitors?

Focus your innovation efforts on things that matter to your customers.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission. Submit your copyright complaints here.

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JP Nicols

Bank innovation consulting expert JP Nicols has been internationally recognized as a leading voice for innovation, strategy and leadership for the future of financial services.

JP is a trusted advisor to companies from startups to the Fortune 500, a popular writer, a top rated speaker, and is often quoted in the press on video and in print. He has been named to several lists as an influential thought leader in financial services.

A former senior bank executive, JP is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Innosect, a Silicon Valley based global innovation enablement and analytics company that has experience helping over 200,000 people contribute to projects and campaigns that have generated over $400 million in value.

He is also the co-founder of the Bank Innovators Council, an independent global membership organization with members in 65 countries that promotes and supports innovation in banking.

His work has been featured in some of the industry’s top publications, including American Banker, The Financial Brand, BAI Banking Strategies, Investment News, Bank Innovation and many others. Read more here.

Before his work in bank innovation consulting, JP served in various leadership and innovation roles at top financial institutions, including as the first Chief Private Banking Officer for a top five U.S. bank. He is an instructor at the Pacific Coast Banking School, and he serves on the advisory boards of NextBank USA and Advizr, and previously served on the advisory board of Balance Financial and as Vice Chair of the board of Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.