One of our most important guiding principles is that action is far more valuable than talk. The only thing worse than all talk and no action, is all action and no results. In this rapidly evolving environment, it's easy to fall into the trap of mistaking activity for results; motion for progress. With the constant buzz of innovation, the never-ending cycle of product launches, and daily announcements of new cutting-edge technologies, it's crucial to differentiate between what is truly moving the needle and what is just noise.
“Never mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden
The real promise of the fintech revolution is not simply replumbing existing infrastructure to more efficiently deliver the same products and services that everyone else has, it’s unlocking new capabilities to provide new sources of value that differentiate you from the competition.
Motion vs. Progress
Attending conferences and webinars to learn about new technologies
Benchmarking your capabilities compared to your competitors.
Conducting user/market research to identify pain points and opportunities.
Meeting with fintech companies to explore potential partnerships.
Building financial models to forecast ROI for new products.
Experimenting with emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, and machine learning.
Launching new features and products.
Enhancing operational efficiency and reducing costs.
Improving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.
Expanding customer relationships and deepening wallet share.
Helping customers achieve important goals, accomplish critical tasks, and relieve pains.
Increasing market share and revenue.
Opening up or creating new market segments.
Creating and expanding a sustainable competitive advantage.
Demonstrating a positive impact on financial inclusion and societal well-being.
None of the motions listed here necessarily lack value. Some are better than others, and many are essential for driving results, but they only lead to progress when they result in tangible benefits for customers and the business.
The Dangers of Mistaking Motion for Progress
Resource Misallocation: Focusing too much on activity without a clear path to achievement can lead to misallocation of what are always limited resources. Too many institutions invest heavily in areas that don't yield significant tangible results.
Lack of Competitive Edge: Institutions that mistake activity for achievement fail to gain a competitive edge by spreading themselves too thin, rather than concentrating on what truly matters.
Customer Disengagement: Continually introducing new features and products can overwhelm customers. Without clear benefits or improvements in user experience, it may lead to customer disengagement and churn.
Regulatory Risks: Neglecting the achievement of regulatory compliance can result in legal issues and reputational damage. Simply ticking boxes and not addressing the underlying issues can be perilous.
“Do not confuse things that are hard with things that are valuable.” – James Clear
Guiding Principles for Aligning Motions with Progress
To make sure your activities will add up to meaningful achievements, concentrate on the following:
Customer-Centricity: Explore with a clear focus on solving customer problems and enhancing their financial well-being. Regularly collect feedback and adapt your offerings accordingly.
Data-Driven Decision Making: Use data analytics and insights to guide your decisions. Monitor key performance indicators and evaluate the impact of your initiatives.
Collaboration Over Competition: Collaborate with fintech companies and other financial institutions strategically. Building partnerships that offer mutual benefits while reducing costs and risks can drive big results fast.
Compliance and Security: Appropriately prioritize regulatory compliance and data security to ensure the long-term trust of your customers and stakeholders without losing sight of customer and business goals.
Sustainability and Social Impact: Consider the broader societal impact of your products. Demonstrating a commitment to financial inclusion and sustainability can be a significant achievement.
A simpler and more memorable (if slightly NSFW) guiding principle is to avoid being an Underpants Gnome. This is a meme-able reference from a classic South Park episode, where Cartman and the boys visit the cave of the gnomes who have been stealing their underpants from their dressers at night. The boys wanted to understand why, so the gnomes explain their business model:
Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit.
Bottom line, it’s worth having an understanding of Phase 2 for any new activity before you spend valuable time and resources on the motions of Phase 1.
JP Nicols is cofounder of Alloy Labs, and Managing Director of the Alloy Labs Institute, which creates and curates best practices and industry-leading tools and frameworks to help financial institutions reduce innovation risk and drive exponential growth.