Three recent phenomena make this age-old question increasingly relevant, especially for credit unions. Traditionally, businesses have relied on experts or consultants; essentially the "phone-a-friend" option. This first reaction is now quickly changing in the business world and in every aspect of life!
Consider this simple situation where you invariably need some feedback:
Which movie should I watch tonight?
You may find yourself asking your friends through your Facebook account.
You may visit www.rottentomatoes.com
Your first reaction today is very different than that first reaction 5-7 years ago when you may have read a newspaper review from your favorite critic or "expert."
Let's consider this in a business context: why is there no Rottentomatoes.com for the products and services that credit unions purchase from various vendors? This is coming soon to a community near you, as the crowds are getting organized to collaborate together. I know this as I am working on several such projects where the wisdom of the credit union crowd is being harnessed!
Let's look at the three phenomena which make online communities inevitable and very powerful.
1. Business communication is increasingly turning social (more participative). This is clearly evident at industry conferences accompanied by the now essential "tweetups," and also in the scores of social tools being announced in business software suites every day. Workplaces now have the tools to seek instant feedback from every employee on several fronts. Your credit union intranet will look and work like an internal Facebook or Twitter soon!
2. Collaboration toolsets are getting closer to allowing real-time activity streams to be incorporated in the way we work. Whether it is status updates or tags being used to organize knowledge; the biggest difference in today's world is the ability to get a lot of peoples' opinions almost instantaneously using Web 2.0 and looking at the aggregates.
3. From all empirical evidence, it appears that if you have a large, informed crowd (diverse and independent), the crowd WILL beat the experts in making choices. Of course the crowd has to be informed, without being experts in the subject. This is especially true for cognitive problems (multiple scenarios).
In the popular game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," the phone-a-friend strategy has resulted in the right answer 65% of the time-quite impressive indeed. But if you really want to be a millionaire, the "poll the studio audience" strategy has been right an unbelievable 91% of the time! These three advances will change the way you work within your credit union. But that's just the beginning; these advances will also change the way credit union industry works across enterprise boundaries in the near future. Credit unions have sharing and collaboration in their DNA. Now the platform for making large scale collaboration possible is becoming a reality.
These phenomena are leading to a more social and collaborative enterprise (internal credit union employee portals) which in turn is driving demand for industry wide communities. Every state league will be a great candidate to form its own online collaboration community. All vendors and CUSOs will also be scrambling to form their online client community. All credit union business leaders will be plugged into several such communities, and also have real time access to their employee community where they can scan a lot of information in a short amount of time. Just think how we can now keep up with several hundreds of friends on Facebook. Yes, Activity Feeds are a game changer as they allow scanning a lot of small pieces of information at a glance, without having to respond to each activity.
So, next time you have a question such as which industry conference to attend in 2010, try posting it to the biggest crowd you have access to. Can this also be your best bet for new product ideas, for new recruits, vendor selection, and marketing tactics? Your credit union can't snooze on his one, as such community portals are already being planned across our industry. After all, individual and businesses can use this studio audience several times a day!
So what do you think? Which communities would you like to see in the credit union industry?
Can an organized online community (focus group) of your members be helpful in shaping your marketing tactics?
Credit Union Times' guest blogger, Paroon Chadha, is the co-founder of Passageways.