Good ideas are like fashion. They have a way of coming back into vogue a little differently each time. Cooperatives do the same thing, recycling existing ideas with just enough modification to put their own spin on the same concept. Or as Alix Patterson puts it: Use your re-imagination.
As it turns out, borrowing someone else’s idea is not only easier but also safer than reinventing the wheel. After all, the beauty of adopting an existing idea is that you’ve already seen it in action and can tailor it for your own membership before putting anything into practice.
That’s how Navy Army Community Credit Union discovered the solution to a vexing problem. The credit union’s call center agents kept getting bogged down carrying out tasks that members requested over the phone, until executives found the solution when they visited Arizona Federal Credit Union for ideas: a fulfillment center that handled those tasks, freeing up call center agents to take more calls.
Sometimes, credit unions arrive at the same conclusion independently, as was the case for Educators and Seven Seventeen. Both credit unions adopted programs encouraging borrowers to refinance and folded them into financial education efforts when demand for refinancing subsided. Although they had the same general idea, the credit unions adopted different financial education strategies, one actively targeting members who could benefit from counseling and the other making counseling convenient and accessible to encourage use.
Then there are the ideas that credit unions put into practice as part of a larger event, like Wright-Patt Credit Union’s Savings Race. Although the race is a winning idea in itself, many of the strategies used to make it successful have broader applications for a credit union’s ordinary business operations. There’s one more advantage to thinking of ideas as commodities to be borrowed and adopted at will — they’re absolutely free.