Read “Poke the Box.”

By:  Rob

On the cover of Seth Godin’s latest book “Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something For the First Time?” is a drawing of a man who looks remarkably like the person featured in traditional credit union ads holding an umbrella or otherwise representing the common man. The parallels with issues facing the movement don’t stop at the cover of this wonderful little book. Godin, an author, public speaker and all around entrepreneur is always worth reading. In his new book, Godin’s message is choose yourself. That is, if you have an idea, if you have a dream, pursue it yourself don’t wait for someone to pick you or hire you to do something else. As he says in the book “Go. Do that.” It is interesting to me because he spends half the book telling you to jump in and then he peppers this position by telling you how to apply a filter to some of your ideas so that you don’t do something particularly stupid. That being said, he also warns not to be afraid of failure, which is always good advice. Godin himself has failed at a number of different projects; however, one of his successful ventures netted him 30 million dollars back in 1998. Godin is a restless producer of thought and ideas and an extraordinarily successful person in his own right.

But this is not a book review. My goal in this blog post is to identify why you should, dear credit union reader, spend some time with Mr. Godin and read his new book. It has been my experience, and I know this might be an incredible shock to you, but something I hear in the Credit Union Movement frequently is “We’ve always done it that way.” I would submit to you that credit unions who continue to pursue that philosophy will not exist by 2016. In fact, some people believe that half the credit unions today will not exist by 2016. To me that would be an epic tragedy. As Godin says “The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.” Today, being shoved means being shoved out of the movement.

Godin also identifies what is needed to make something happen. “An idea, people to work on it, a place to build or organize it, raw materials, distribution, money, marketing.” Credit unions have all of these things in spades. Ideas are floating around more plentifully than ever online, in think tanks and among your peers and employees. Credit unions have employees that can work on these ideas, buildings, money, members to distribute ideas too marketing people and of course the raw materials of computers and papers and the other implements of financial services. Godin mixes the ideas of success and failure along with persistence as being essential to continued existence. This identifies what is happening in the Credit Union Movement right now so perfectly that it hurts. Really, credit unions have nothing to lose by way of failure at this point because if a credit union does nothing, it will probably fail anyway. If a credit union puts three boats in the water and only one of them comes in, it will probably succeed.

Godin even puts this into a formula: “When the cost of poking the box (PTB) is less than the cost of doing nothing (0), then you should poke! [PTB-0=poke]” Again, the cost of doing nothing at this point is merger or liquidation. At the same time he says “If you run a giant, billion dollar steel mill, I don’t think you should shut it down for a month to try new, untested technology.” It is a balancing act but the message is to go forward.

The best thing, perhaps, about Godin’s new book is that it is very short. Plus at $8.00 it is pretty cheap. If you work at a credit union, read Poke the Box and share it with your coworkers.


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