Sleek, New, And Useless

Solutions without a problem are a hard sell for any institution.


Innovation can be a great differentiator, but the culture that abides by a motto of “do something new, whether it’s needed or not,” is a controversial one – especially considering the recent flop of much-hyped photo-sharing startup, Color.

When it comes to product or service development, how do you tell the “must have’s” from the “why bothers?”

Apple reached its place in the market by guiding and shaping consumers to its products, not its products to consumers. But if that same approach were applied to other companies, with different clientele or cultures, it could be seen as having a disastrous lack of consumer influence.

What works for one brand could be a death knell for another. In the case of credit unions, some bodies of membership actively embrace changes, even if they didn’t ask for them. Others want to drive and shape innovation themselves, and won’t use a product they never asked for.

FastCompany lists six of what it calls “major game-ending pitfalls” in product development, regardless of the company.

  • Technological Risk - It violates the laws of physics.
  • IP Risk - Your idea steps on somebody's toes.
  • Market Risk - Nobody wants it.
  • Cost Risk - It costs too much to ever make a profit.
  • Knock-off Risk - Mr. MeToo does the same thing, and they do it cheaper.
  • Competitive Risk - Somebody beats you to it.

Many of these are easy to gauge, but a lack of awareness for market risk — no consumer need or demand — traps many companies in unproductive innovation.

“Our ability as advertisers to contrive and disseminate an emotional response through advertising is diminishing rapidly,” says FastCompany. “But this is good news. What you say about your product or service matters almost nothing at all, and what I, the consumer, can do with it matters completely.”

Innovation is a balancing act between staying relevant and avoiding flavors of the week. You’re not looking for an RC Glow. You’re looking for substance and long-term usability.

IFC's The Whitest Kids U'Know

Also, not every pitfall listed is a deal killer for every institution. Because credit unions are focused on two potential groups (members and potential members) in a specific region, they have more flexibility to overlap, while learning from and improving upon, existing solutions.