Innovation Skills Project—Where We’re At

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MDC is taking a deep dive into innovation. Our goal with this project is to bring innovation tools to our owners—in return, our network of owners will become more advanced and knowledgeable in this space.

We are at a key point in this project—designing potential solutions for a new MDC-branded Innovation Program. To accomplish this, we are relying on a great amount of research we have completed already.

Secondary research: Top books, websites, academic journals, whitepapers, webinars, and publications, were reviewed and summarized into a document of up-to-date, state of the art findings on the status of Innovation in today’s marketplace. To view this document, visit MDC Connect.

 In-depth phone interviews: Twelve interviews were conducted with three key segments:

  • MDC CU leaders
  • Innovation leaders in various companies outside of banking (Intel, Lowe’s, ACT, Xerox)
  • The nature and offerings of industry suppliers (consultants, educators, innovation management software) that could potentially assist MDC with future deliverables

Each interview investigated: the participant’s history overall, their experience with innovation as a discipline, current attitudes towards innovation, and their outlook/philosophy on the future of innovation in business. The interviews were also tailored to examine each participant’s subject matter expertise in-depth and their specific point of view. Select experts were invited to participate in an innovation panel discussion at the 2016 February Owner Meeting.

MDC Innovation Maturity Audit: Braden Kelley’s Innovation Audit was made available to our CU’s starting in December 2015. Goals were to:

  • Analyze current innovation capabilities, procedures, and processes
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses
  • Highlight barriers to innovation
  • Identify areas for improvement

Thirty-two of our owners responded, and the results placed our owner credit unions in the following categories.

  • Level 1: Reactive Individual Heroic Action
  • Level 2: Structured Senior Management Makes Innovation a Priority
  • Level 3: In Control Company-wide use of Innovation Tools
  • Level 4: Internalized Innovation is Part of Culture
  • Level 5: Continuously Improving Innovation Innovates Innovation

Analysis showed that there are two groups of MDC credit unions:

  • Group A (Level 1)—17 MDC credit unions
    • Lack clear innovation strategy, yet maintain openness to failure and risk taking and foster a sense of senior leadership’s role
  • Group B (Levels 2-4)—15 MDC credit unions
    • Recognize innovation as a strategic imperative
    • Capitalize on their openness to failure and risk taking
    • Have formal processes in place (ideation, project management, ability to kill a project)
    • Have dedicated innovation resources

As we design an MDC solution, we will keep in mind that there may be two different groups of owners with different needs. However, there are some common factors we identified between the two groups—and it’s all good news!

  • Open to failure
  • Receptive to improvement
  • Support risk
  • CEO is in tune—CEO answers on survey were not unique from the total group

If you are an owner and would like to see which level your credit union was evaluated at, based upon this survey, please email

Analysis of existing innovation programs: We also took a look at the options credit unions currently have for innovation skills development, so we:

  • Explored inside the industry, including Filene, CUNA, CUES, etc.
  • And outside of the industry, including academia, business, consultants, and open conferences
  • Reviewed the scope and cost of the various offerings
  • Interviewed attendees from select conferences
  • Detailed pros/cons of each offering

We found that many existing programs are very focused on a certain tool (e.g., design thinking) or one-time education for a single attendee from a credit union. Attendees—while finding the conferences valuable—expressed difficulty in truly effecting change upon return to their organizations.

 MDC credit unions’ needs: When talking with our owners about their needs around developing innovation skills, we identified two areas that are not being addressed by existing training programs:

  • Building a culture of innovation. What does that look like?
    • CEO and board drive innovation
    • Strategy and innovation are linked
    • Human and financial resources are dedicated to innovation
    • Innovation is viewed as everyone’s job
  • Implementing innovation tools. What does that look like?
    • Tools should be able to be implemented across the credit union (beyond just those who attend an innovation course)
    • Provide structure and a repeatable process to make innovation easier
    • Needs to move beyond just “new product” innovation
    • Has to include metrics
    • Has to include the ability to leverage member data

So now the hard work…concept design: All of this research is now our foundation as we continue the design work for an MDC solution. We are evaluating:

  • Benefits to MDC CU’s
  • Value proposition
  • Content
  • Logistics
  • Price points
  • Partners
  • Pros/cons of each concept
  • Recommendation on how to proceed

So far, this project has been challenging, insightful, and really exciting. Stay tuned to hear more about our progress. If you have any questions or comments, please contact

You can find all of this research on MDC Connect. Also check out @MEMBERSDvlCo on Twitter for project information shared out during April’s Innovation Celebration Month Campaign.