Want More Innovation At Your Bank? Teach The Learning Mindset

Developing A Learning Mindset To Spur Bank Innovation

We just finished up the Western Independent Bankers (WIB) Conference on the Big Island in Hawaii for their annual conference and one of the most interesting lessons came in the most unlikely of places – dolphin training.  While dolphin training was fascinating, the real lesson came when you watch a group of novice trainers learn how to work with dolphins.  The speed of training is not the same for everyone and those that had a “learning mindset” excelled while those that failed to take training, and more importantly, learning, seriously were outdistanced. Understand what it takes to have a learning mindset in banking and you can outdistance your competition.


Understanding Dolphins


The WIB conference was held at the Hilton on the Big Island, home to Dolphin Quest, where you can play trainer for a day.  No surprise, dolphins, like people, each have a different personality with different sets of skills. Some dolphins can jump high, some can verbalize their feelings more and some can retrieve various objects. The problem comes when you get a new dolphin to train and neither the dolphin nor the trainer wants to or can learn how to adapt. When this happens, learning slows. Where one dolphin and trainer combination can excel, only the best trainers could quickly adapt to demands of new dolphins.


Learning Mindset In Banking


How often does this failure to adapt happen with you or your staff?


This Is Causing a Problem in Banking


If you look around the current banking environment, there are hundreds of places where bankers are applying old methods to new problems without being open to relearning new approaches.   


This happened in payments as banking was slow to adapt to the changing pace of mobile. Companies like Paypal and Square took the space that was rightfully the banks. It is happening right now for online account opening, as many banks are using technology that mimics their current account process instead of designing a whole new, mobile-based account opening process.


Banks are failing to relearn the new marketing paradigm of using digital channels, content creation and video. The same can also be said for the economy, as with rates so low for so long, depositors are no longer acting the same, which may hurt many underlying asset-liability assumptions.


These are just some examples, but thinking about the future like the past is an epidemic in our industry.


Keeping the Beginners Mind


It has certainly happened to us enough. A new employee or new process comes around and we keep applying what has worked in the past to the new environment. Just like giving that jump hand signal to that dolphin that doesn’t like to jump out of the water, we send a signal and then get frustrated that it is not working to our expectations. The result is a learning or evolutionary process that is slowed.


The key lesson in having a learning mindset is to see things with a clean slate as if you were new to the banking process you are trying to learn.  A clean slate means having the desire to learn new things as well as being receptive to gaining new insights.


The loan process is a good place to start. Start over and ask yourself if you had to create a new loan process from scratch, what would you do differently? Chances are you can cut information, time and duplication out of that process and employ greater automated decisioning for the high quality or the weak credits. You can centralize processing, but decentralize decisions. The result should be a more efficient allocation of resources and a better experience for the customer.  


Banking Is Changing


Banking is rapidly changing and like dolphin training, it requires the understanding of the basic principles of the task, but with an openness that is willing to learn new ideas and experiment a path to success. Millennials are the not the same as Boomers, checking account balances will not react the same way during the next interest rate increase and interacting with your bank via mobile is not the same as walking into a branch.


No matter how much banking experience you have, by keeping a beginner’s mind and learning mindset will follow and you will achieve the emptiness that is required to come up with new processes and products.