Building a community to improve an industry

We’re still moving too slowly.

Big firms know they need to change, but most are spending too much time wrestling with technology, policies, and a scarcity of good use cases. For banks and insurance companies, change is even slower due to regulations and a culture of information hoarding.

It’s time to try something different. And, earlier this week, we did.

A symposium

On Monday, 19 banks and insurance companies convened on Wall Street to talk about improving collaboration at their firms. How to make work better - more efficient, effective, and fulfilling. Unlike other meetings or conferences, the focus wasn’t on presentations but on building a community - a purposeful network whose goal is to accelerate learning.

For example, everyone is trying to interpret country-specific data privacy regulations so we know what content we can store and share. It’s important to get this right but the lack of clarity is slowing everyone down. If we could share interpretations and implementations that were already approved, we could all move on more quickly to work that would generate more value.

Banks can share, too

This wasn’t a secret club talking about trading algorithms. The discussions were on basic issues like ways to eliminate waste or the best ways to build a community. Things you might read online or hear at an industry conference.

The key difference was the focus on connecting people who care about specific topics and understood the specific issues in our industry so they could accelerate change. In this network, there are no vendors selling products or fees to join. The motivations are more intrinsic: the desire to make work better.

“Why would you do that?”

Later in the week, I was speaking to a large consulting firm and happened to mention the symposium. They were a bit taken aback. “Why would you do that?”

Because our industry is in desperate need of eliminating waste.

Because our industry and our customers need more innovation.

Because the millions of people in our industry want more fulfilling work.

Because, in just a few hours working with peers at other firms, I learned of ways I could realize more value for my firm, more quickly, than I thought was possible. And now I have friends (yes, the “f-word”) who can help me.

“Oh,” they said. “That makes sense.”

What’s next?

One meeting doesn’t make a community. It will take quite some time before we develop the personal relationships and the trust we need to call it that.

But we took a step. Now, we’ll use an online space to share questions and some simple content. We’ll organize working groups to focus on specific problems we discussed at the symposium. We’ll share stories and back each other up so we can take greater advantage of precedents. As we learn and as we build trust, we'll be ready to share and do more.

To achieve the kind of change our industry needs, it’s time for a different approach.