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48: Embracing an Innovative Culture with Stephanie Hammes-Betti of US Bank

Published October 20, 2020
Run time: 00:42:06
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When we put humans first, we can learn a lot. Stephanie Hammes-Betti is the Senior Vice President of Innovation Design at US Bank, and her 18-year career there has given her extensive know-how in UX/UI design, usability testing, and technology solutions. Stephanie joins the show to chat about how innovation happens within a large organization, how to go about listening to customers, and the benefits of teaching an innovative mindset to employees.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How showing people vs. telling people is the secret sauce to changing mindsets
  • Why you should determine the three essential things users need when designing a mobile experience
  • How to observe, ask, and listen to what users want vs. what they think they want
  • The benefits of embedding an innovative culture through all lines of business
  • How US Bank encourages innovation via its best resource, its own people
  • How to use problem-fit and value-fit when chasing the next shiny object

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded September 18, 2020 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non-technical look at all things technical. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

Today we're chatting with Stephanie Hammes-Betti. Stephanie is the Senior Vice President of Innovation Design for US Bank. We have a great conversation about innovating within a large organization, and how you go about actually listening to your customers. People say it's a good thing to listen to your users. But how do you actually go about doing that is a whole other story. And we had some technical issues with our usual way we record podcasts, so we did this one over Skype. Bear with us, the audio quality is good enough. And I think you'll really enjoy this episode. So without further ado, here is my interview with Stephanie Hammes-Betti.

Stephanie, welcome to the show.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 1:03
Thank you. Excited to be here.

Tim Bornholdt 1:05
I'm really excited to have you here. You have an awesome history and such a great title. With all the stuff you've done with US Bank, I'm really excited to dive deep on that. But before we jump in, why don't you tell us your origin story? How did you get to where you are today?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 1:23
Yeah, I don't know, it's been a lot of fun, I can tell you that much. You know, early days, early in my career, I was actually in education, and then came into needing a different type of job. I was actually teaching abroad, came back. And that was kind of at the time of the dot coms all being built, and everyone was in a hurry to get a website. And here in Minneapolis, there were so many people just needing folks who could help them get things done. And I didn't have any technical background at all. In fact, it terrified me.

But I jumped in, and started with techies.com, which was a great way to begin because it was kind of this broad look at a startup. But then also technology used to help people recruit other technologists for filling all of these new roles because of websites and apps coming in, that kind of thing. So it was a great space to learn a lot of things quickly, because we all kind of had to do a lot of different things. And I think that sort of instilled in me sort of that, I like to learn new things, and I like to help people learn new things. And I really liked technology. So that probably started me on my path for user experience type work and kind of got into usability and then user experience, strategy type stuff and worked with a team of experts. And, you know, we had the first front end user experience for US Bank. And I think, logically, at that time, it was a big corporation, it seemed conservative. You didn't really expect them to embrace user experience as a practice the way that they did. But they saw the value in the design and the approach to help them with their applications. Because of course, everyone's trying to solve this at the same time. So kind of grew into a couple different roles within that team, and then did a little time with customer experience, and then moved over into the Innovation Group and think I've been with innovation now almost 10 years, which is great. And even within there I've done a couple of different things, which is, you know, part of the fun to get to sort of reinvent and redirect, as you see those opportunities. But I think the thing that I really like about US Bank is those different opportunities, and I have great passion for design and design methodology, and how can we use that to make experiences better, and let's face it, there are some challenging experiences. And in some cases, it's the human side in that managing money isn't necessarily fun. And in some cases, it's the bank side in that we don't really make it as easy as we could. So the two come together for me and make it a really interesting space to work in.

Tim Bornholdt 4:05
Well, yeah, I mean, you mentioned being at the forefront of getting US Bank to pivot and I would imagine trying to get, like you said, a more conservative organization that isn't very open to change, I mean, you hear so many horror stories of banks still running on Fortran and all those like super old, when they first got put in technologies. And having to move into mobile apps and how everything just every year changes and new things get added and all of that. How did you help that? Because I would imagine that it wasn't a mindset shift that you did right away. How did you help kind of move that mindset so everybody was thinking we need to be more thinking about digital and innovation and changing things more quickly?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 4:50
I think at that time it was really helping people understand the transition from where we did more person to person kind of business. So moving from the brick and mortar as your sole place to now we're doing things online and just, one, the comfort around what that meant. It didn't mean that there wouldn't be any more branches; it just meant we were now enabling another pathway for customers. And internally, I think people understood that. But yeah, it was a new technology. And it was a new way to think and, you know, there was that initial kind of thing of like, Well, let's just take this brochure. We'll just put it on the website. We all know that that doesn't really work. And so I think, you know, in partnership with all the great people I was able to work with early on is, you know, you get a wireframe or you do a mock up, or you create a storyboard. And now they can start to envision what they feel like is impossible, like that just can't exist. And they can move a button or they can talk to you about a button. They can sort of start to get to the vision that you have, or you know, where you're bringing them. And I think that that was a lot of our secret sauce in the beginning is that it wasn't just telling people, you could actually show people, and the beauty of a lot of the stuff that was created, you know, you could change it a couple of times. And that wasn't code, you know, it was low cost. And so there was this sort of sigh of relief, right? Like, we can think about this for a couple of days. And we can go test it with some folks and really make sure that we're on the right track. And you know, even like the first time, I remember bringing in some of the product teams and developers just to sort of sit in the back as quiet as they could be while we were doing some usability testing. And you know, that moment of like, Oh, everyone will get this. And then they would watch somebody really struggle with the design. And it was sort of like, Oh, well, why haven't tested everything? And so it's that experience, right? So often, we try to use words as the only way. But I think there's that benefit of show me and sort of do it kind of together, you know, where you can collaborate on the design. You can sort of see its iterations come forward. And then of course, I think the magical discovery is, Guess what our customers actually care about design, and they're very happy to tell you what they think and we can learn from these things together.

So I think because we were a small team, we were pretty nimble, but we also really made it as inclusive as we could with those partners, just to kind of help onboard them. And it worked. Well, you know, in some cases, you know, probably too well, because there wasn't enough of us to go around always, but for the things that we really focused on, I think it was an effective approach.

Tim Bornholdt 7:31
Yeah, I would think it would be trying to steer a big ship like that. It is amazing how you can. We've talked about in previous episodes about focus group testing, and how you just sit your developers in front of people and try to get them to use the app. And it's like, you always see that trope on TV with focus groups where the person is behind the glass, and they're just like banging on the wall, like, You idiot. And you just want to do that so bad. But you can't. I think it is such an eye opener, and especially dealing with developers, I mean. I have yet to meet a developer who isn't opinionated and doesn't think like, Well, this is logical. So this works. And it's like, Well, humans aren't logical, necessarily. And you sometimes do need to have a giant big fat button right in the middle that just says, Click me. And even that will go over people's eyes sometimes. So yeah.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 8:27
We're always smart until somebody uses our thinking, and then all of a sudden, we all become dumb. I mean, it's one of those things that when we put humans first, right, we can all learn a lot. And I don't doubt that the code is awesome, or that the plan around the code is awesome. But it can always be better. And I think that's where, and obviously, right, we're now in a space with the evolution of UX, and in strategy and customer experience, kind of all combined, that really now we see products that really are an experience versus designing a separate experience. It's just so integrated. So I think that thinking has really evolved over the years and some of the things that we'd have to break apart and really sell is just factored in, like, you know, Well, why wouldn't you do it like this? Yeah, you're right, why wouldn't you? It took us 15 years to get there people, right? So I think that's kind of exciting. And technology obviously has evolved with us, right? So tools to help you design and even just mobile tools themselves, they've gotten better too, so you can do more. And I think that also helps us sort of learn faster, too. So we're able to deliver things that are just better in the end.

Tim Bornholdt 9:45
Well, yeah. I've been a US Bank customer for many years, myself, and I have watched as an app developer, I've watched the US Bank app with great interest. I'm sure you know, like the early days, things weren't awesome. But over the last, you know, couple of years, especially, things are rapidly improving. And it seems like every time I go to look in the App Store, there's a new update to the app with new features and things moved around. It's like when everybody sees Facebook change, and everyone flips a lid, but then two days later, if you tried to flip it back, they'd flip a lid again, because people just can't handle change. How was it, with building out the app, I mean, you've been there since the beginning of the app, how have things evolved ever since the early days? How has that process been for just seeing all that constant improvement in the app?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 10:39
Well, early days, and I definitely was not involved in the excellent stuff that's out there today. The really early team that I was a part of worked on the mobile web app, which was the first version of the US Bank mobile app. And that was fun, because the thing that we had to teach people and actually get our brains around ourselves is, you're just not putting your web into a phone. Right? You're just not creating an experience that is the same robust experience elsewhere into a phone. And sort of what is the essential information that people need to have and what's sort of doable and makes sense given that context, right? Because a phone is smaller, and at that time, they were even smaller than they are today. And they weren't really smart yet. Right? So how do you sort of design for that? And I think having that experience of bringing the banking online and looking at a lot of the complexity that people would get in a statement or, you know, financial reporting, or whatever. And then you have to digitize that into a web experience. And now you're, you know, what then is the mobile experience? I think those early explorations really helped us all learn, in some cases, painfully bad experiences. Like, you know, it helped us learn what would work and what wouldn't, and I still think we're evolving it, because it's the natural tendency to try to give your customer everything. Well you're gonna need this in your app. And I think that there's a balance between, Do they? Do they really need all that? Or really, at the end of the day, what are the three top things they're going to care about, and let's make those work really well. And then kind of learn around the other things. Because when you have a lot, there's a lot of resources in a bank, there's a lot of products and services. And there's things that you want to add into those opportunities for your customers, but they just may not be relevant to where the customer is at the time you're using your app.

Tim Bornholdt 12:40
How do you go about thinking in that way, though, because like you said, the bank has so many different things that you can do. And trying to figure out what somebody would want to do in mobile versus what someone would want on the desktop, there's times where you probably have to make some tough choices as to what you would include in the mobile app. And those have to probably be some uncomfortable conversations with people. How do you go about thinking about that process of how to separate those two products?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 13:11
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. Again, this is sort of me talking like the old dog and all these newbies out there are killing it. It's probably showing my true 18 years with the bank. But, you know, early on, it was a big deal to go talk to a customer. It was a big deal to have to show them something that wasn't baked, and people really worried about what they were gonna think. Whereas now, I think we're all so used to these new mobile experiences, which are kind of janky sometimes, but then they get better. And, you know, they change and evolve, and we want to be trusted. And we want to sort of have people get this consistency from us from a bank side. But sometimes we have to admit to the customer, we're learning too and I think we've gotten so much better at that.

Agile has come to the bank over the last few years. And I watch the Agile design studios and those teams, and how they iterate and really how they actually do go talk to the customers quite frequently. And then of course, there's the survey mechanisms and the analytic's side, so you're putting together a full story. And you know, you can do that in as real time as you can get to people, I imagine. And the way that I see that kind of coming together is now you've got a better picture. And you can see where things are really effective, or maybe where there's friction, or there's just no use, and you can kind of start to think about how you adjust that at a faster rate. Whereas before, I don't think that the technology was this flexible. And I'm not a developer, so maybe it always was and I had no idea, but you know, it just didn't seem as flexible or maybe our development timelines weren't as flexible as well. So when things were broken, or whatever, it just took you a long time to learn because the sequence of when you could change and get into that cycle was longer too. But I think what's really cool now and where I'm excited is the fact that, because of some of these technology advances, we can change things faster. But then we also have the ability because of better tools to learn faster with our customers. So I think that puts us in a better place. I'm not going to say we're always perfect, right? Because truthfully, I don't know who is or what even that means, because we should just be smart about learning with the experience and watching and observing so that we can sort of adjust to the right places.

Tim Bornholdt 15:34
Well and you kind of hit the nail on the head with saying you've got surveys as one mechanism for collecting feedback, and then you have analytics as a second method for collecting feedback. Because often what people say they want is a lot different than how they interact with the app. So I would imagine that tying the two together, like you said, it's not perfect, and if anybody ever cracked that nut, they'd be multibillionaires. But it's just a never ending process, I would imagine, on your end of trying to square around some people say they want this, but they actually do that. And vice versa.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 16:10
Well, and I think, you know, you bring that up, what I say I do and what I do are two different things. Because I can tell you, you know, I had a lot of user heartbreak early on in my career and being really passionate. The users need this, they said they need this. Then you build the darn thing. And it's like, nope.

Tim Bornholdt 16:29
Nobody wanted it.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 16:31
They're still complaining about the same problem by God. You listened to them, and you fixed it. Because that's the other thing, you know, that observation and that paying attention to other indicators to really see like, Well, will they do what they say? And especially with finances, because finances, I think that same part of the brain that sometimes gets you hooked on eaten too many, you know, Twinkies, or cupcakes or whatever it is, Doritos, is the same part that makes it hard for you to sort of stick to a budget sometimes, or really feel confident in managing money. And I think, because of those struggles, and sometimes people feel anxiety and sort of shame about their money and their ability to manage it, then I don't think that they really even want to talk about it. Like they want to give you that positive projection of what they want to be, but they may not be there yet. And so I mean, that's the other thing about what we learn with our customers is, you have to listen, but then you also have to observe.

Tim Bornholdt 17:31
I would think that's a fine line to walk against. Like, since I use the app, I've noticed there's different prompts where it gives you just different things of, You've spent more this month on groceries that you have last month. And it's like those little indicators because you don't want to throw it, and like you said, people are bad at budgets, and if you make them feel worse about it, that's not productive. But you also need to find that good balance of just saying like, Hey, I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but you ate out every single night last month. And you said you didn't want to do that. So I would think that there's a lot of testing that goes into that too to find that right balance of poking people in the right direction, but not like stabbing them.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 18:18
Well, that's just kind of it right? If somebody is feeling bad about it, you don't want them to feel worse about it. So now they avoid the topic completely. It's that sort of, you know, gentle kind of nudge from a family member, Hey, man, you know, pick up your shoes when you come in the door. It's, what does the person need? Because there are some people, you know, that we've met with an interview that are like, No, I want you to like shock me if I spend too much. Like, there's people who really want the hard approach, but I think, you know, you try to meet it to where is best for sort of this general, and then kind of learned from there. I think, you know, now we're seeing more of this proactiveness in financial services, and I love it right? We should be rewarding and helping people do better versus in some cases being in a spot where we might, you know, penalize them for things that they didn't intend to do or just couldn't control. Right? And so, I like to see that trend. I think a lot of the behavioral economics and psychology work that is around how people think about money and how they manage money has really helped advance that to be in a better spot. And of course, you know, in banking in general, it's core. I mean, even with all the fintechs that are out there, it's still pretty core to what people need, you know, buying houses and car loans and you know, all that kind of stuff. So when we can do better for them, then we're gonna help other people do better.

Tim Bornholdt 19:48
Oh, yeah. One thing that you brought up that I thought was interesting, I want to hear what you have to think about it is, when you're talking about certain people just love being shocked, and they want it that way. But clearly most people don't. How do you accommodate conflicting viewpoints when you're looking into usability and UX? I would imagine that just finding a mushy middle balance that makes nobody happy isn't necessarily the right solution. But then also going for the majority, you're taking off some of the minority, so how do you think about getting those conflicting viewpoints and incorporating them into your app?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 20:28
Yeah, you know, I think the conflicting viewpoints, you also have to look at, you know, most of the things that we've looked at, or that we think about when we design, you know, there's a certain amount of persona work that's done. So you are trying to target certain goals and aspirations around those personas. I think, too, it's sort of like you can usually through some of the analytics verify some of those things to are other people doing things like this, are they experiencing things. That's where I think the data now helps us do better jobs in making some of those decisions so you don't sway too far one way to another. You can kind of also look at your data and say, Okay, how many people really seem to have things like this? Or do we see a way that, you know, there's only a small percentage of folks that are doing it, so you can start to kind of judge, what's going to be best along the way there. Anyway, that's why I like it to be more of this fluid learning, because, you know, I think, you might have had the perfect experience planned out, and then COVID happened, right. And now, there's all sorts of new behaviors that are going on, and people are having, you know, loss of work, or they're waiting for checks, or maybe there have a mortgage problem. And so all of these uncertainties then come in too, and I think when we can sort of be smart about that listening, and asking and listening and observing, right? We can, you know, be more adaptive, and I think that's the best place to be because the world is adaptive. And so we don't want to necessarily change so that it's not consistent, but where we can see an opportunity to change something that could work better, I think that's where our intent is.

Tim Bornholdt 22:21
I think that's well said. I have a series of questions, and I don't have a great way to segue into them, so I'm just gonna jump right in. So you're focused on innovation, right? And inside a large company, we kind of touched on some of these topics before, but I think that to me is just really fascinating, to me individually as an app developer, but I think a lot of our audience to know that they might be in a large organization and want to try to figure out how to, you know, either do innovation or how do you think about innovation? And so I wonder, in your particular role, how much of your job is actually building things versus going out and conceptualizing things? I think you kind of touched on it is like an iterative process. But I just wonder, do you think of yourself more as like a conceptualizer and just bringing in the ideas? Or do you see yourself more as like a doer and a builder and a creator in that way?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 23:30
I don't know, I kind of envision myself as like those old pictures of the super, the janitor in the building that had this belt with a bunch of massive tools on it. And like, you know, wore a couple different hats.

Tim Bornholdt 23:44
With the overalls.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 23:45
Right? The overall, man, you got to be prepared for anything. Yeah, in my role and the team's role that we have today, we don't do a lot of the production side. And the things that I used to do in former roles, most of it is around the concept. So part of it is, is we spend a lot of time on what we like to call building innovation muscle inside of US Bank. So the team is about 35 people, but there's never enough of you to go around. And it's probably not good for the bank if innovation can only happen with that group. So we try to do all that we can to build up the skill set inside the company and offer people the opportunity through some of our programs to come in and sort of do innovation with us and, you know, for a few weeks at a time, so that they to get to work on their ideas. We get to sort of, you know, embed the practice further in the company. And that helps us also learn about how people think and what kind of problem areas there are and are there opportunities for us to sort of partner and work on new things.

The other side of it is what we tend to call the front end of innovation which is really that problem space and understanding the problems, who has the problem? How big is the problem? And starting to work towards a solution, and then thinking about the solution and doing a lot of testing and experimentation around that solution. So, honestly, there's a lot that we do that, you know, doesn't ever leave the doors of US Bank because we're sort of in this test and learn cycle. And with that, things either evolve, maybe into another product that already exists at US Bank, maybe it dies, or maybe it just becomes, you know, some other idea, and you continue to work on it that way.

Tim Bornholdt 25:32
Yeah, it would be hard I would think, having that type of role, if the expectation is the innovation team is constantly cranking out new innovative things and can't fail, that seems like that's counterproductive. Your job should be able to go out and experiment and let things die if they don't work out. And that just lends itself into the next thing that does take off and helps grow the company.

I like that you also said that you're kind of building the innovation muscle, because I was wondering how much your team interacts with other departments in the company. And would you say more of the team is trying to go out and be more evangelists and teach and show people how to be innovative? Or do you actually sit down and embed into departments and help push projects further as you go out into the organization?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 26:31
You know, it varies. I would say that there are some business lines or lines of business that have worked with us since the beginning. So the innovation team, I think, has been around 10 or 11 years, maybe 12 Now, and so, you know, they're the beginning groups that we worked with. And so we continue to have that relationship and work on things together, as it makes sense. So probably in some of those relationships we're a little bit deeper. And of course, if there's a project that we need to sort of be hand to hand as we collaborate and sort of build it out, then we'll do that with a business line as well. Mostly, I would say that part of it is like educating the business on, Here's some trends, here's some things that we think might impact you. And so you're reaching out, and you're kind of sharing some of those ideas. And part of that is, is to get a conversation going around things that might be opportunities that either they may pursue, or you may pursue, you know, sort of with them. The other part is, is giving them a chance to, maybe they just want some feedback on ideas, maybe they're trying to work out on an idea, and they're just trying to see if you've got research or other things to feed in. So, you know, we try to share, we try to educate, and then we try to help build up things where we can, whenever it makes sense. And you can be in any one of those cycles, you know, throughout the year, throughout the month. It just depends on the topic and where we're at on certain projects.

Tim Bornholdt 27:58
Well, it's got to be nice too that you're not necessarily stuck on technical innovation, right? Like you're really going out and helping every department whether it's something that's through paper or something else. It is really, like, all encompassing of the organization, right, when you're talking about innovation?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 28:18
Mm hmm. Yeah, I mean, it's, you know, basically, whoever knocks on the door, right, we're going to answer, and we're going to try to do what we can for them. And that's also how we learn too. Very often they have great insight into things that are going on with their customers or things that are going on in their industry. We as a team can't be experts in every product or service that the bank has. So being able to hear it from their perspective and understand what their problems and their needs are is great. Because they have that context. And then we can think about like, Oh, are there partnerships that would help or are there technologies and we can start to think about ways that we can collaborate and solution them.

Tim Bornholdt 28:58
I personally find it so fascinating, because I've never worked in a large organization before. I started my company right out of college, and I interned at Best Buy. Er, I worked at Best Buy. I interned at the Met Council. So that was kind of a larger organization. But it's so interesting and fascinating to me how different departments in larger companies interact with each other. Because I could imagine that pretty quickly, the silos, the walls go up where departments are not talking to each other. And it's nice that you're able to act as kind of a neutral party to say like, Hey, you know, they're doing something over here that might help you out over here.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 29:38
Yeah, we try, again. That's one of those things where it's not always elegant. And it's not always, you know, hugs and high fives as they say. We definitely try. And I think, you know, through the years, we've covered a lot of the different business lines. So we maintain those contacts and, you know, when it makes sense, they come back and we'll reach out. That kind of thing.

Tim Bornholdt 30:02
One thing you mentioned that you have certain programs and things that you have to help people in the company come in and have a chance to iterate on an idea. Talk about that a little bit, and how if I was working in corporate at a US Bank, and I had an idea, how would I come to you to help get that thing going?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 30:22
Well, there's lots of different ways, really, but the main way would be is you could reach out if you knew somebody on the innovation team and say, Hey, I got this thing, you know, what do you think about it? But we run an innovator in residence program. And that goes several times a year, where there's maybe a challenge that gets started, like, help solve or come up with solutions for a given problem, and then the people who participate in that challenge are invited in to the innovator in residence program to work out that solution. And to really explore how they might be able to provide value with that idea. And so they take it from, I've just entered in an idea to this solution, you're asking for, all the way out to clickable prototype, or a concept where they've really done the research and the vetting around this idea. So it's kind of like our mini startup program internally. And I think it's a good way, right. We like doing it quite a bit because, you know, obviously, going through the steps with people gets you excited for their ideas, too. But then you can see these folks, you know, sometimes the ideas go forward into their business line, sometimes it's somebody who doesn't even work for that business line coming up for an idea for a business line. And that's exciting, too, because to me, that's what makes the company better is when we work together, and we sort of listen to each other, and we sort of, you know, open ourselves up to those like, Yeah, you know, you're not in commercial and that could be a really good idea. And that's kind of the benefit of it. And then I think the excitement from some of those, you know, because it's a great morale builder. I think the employees who get into the program are always very enthusiastic, and they're high performers. So we usually see something good happen to their career later on too because they carry that forward. And now we also know that they think different, and they have these tools that they can apply to everyday work, which is just fantastic.

Tim Bornholdt 32:26
I thought that that's really interesting, because I was going to ask you about what would happen if I had an idea for a different line of business, and it's great that that's something celebrated. Because I could imagine, maybe it's an old way of thinking, but again, with like those silos, it's like, if somebody is like, Well, you're not going to come in here and change the way I do things. And, you know, I would imagine that that's probably something that you've seen change over the years with having the innovation team of before that, maybe having more of a siloed type mentality, and now, people are open, because it's like the rising tide lifts all boats, especially within an organization.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 33:04
Right. Well, it's also good, because sometimes, a lot of times actually, there are ideas that are already in flight, but nobody knows it, right? And so it offers us a way to bring that transparency to the company, and let others know, and let the line of business know, Hey, there's somebody over in this corner of the company thinking about these ideas too. And so we try to match them up. So at the very least, even if their idea wouldn't go forward, that they can share the thinking around it. And it still adds a lot of value, because it is a big company, and people get off in their own silos working on the work that they need to do. Sometimes there isn't the easiest forum, or what is the best way to share. And so I like these programs, because I think we do a great job and it's exciting to be able to connect those dots, and see, you know, the great conversations that happen and the follow ups and, you know, the kind of the cheering on too, because it's a different way to work. And these are new things. And people like to see things that are new, and they really like it, because a lot of times these things stem from problems or opportunities that people are seeing in everyday work.

Tim Bornholdt 34:13
Oh, yeah, I could totally see that being the case. That's really cool. Again, talking about innovation, and if you have all these different people around the business trying out different things, it's like, how do you coordinate people not stepping on each other's toes? Maybe that's not something that you try to avoid? Maybe you try to see if different ideas compete and one comes out as the winner, but do you ever see any conflicting ideas that kind of are going opposite directions and you can't really find a way to bring them back together?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 34:53
Occasionally. I mean, I think mostly the program because it's something that the employee takes on on of top their day job. So they're committed to this and they're working hard. It usually is easy to handle, we'll merge ideas, or we'll have people partner with each other if we see that the ideas, frankly very similar, or that if the idea could collaborate. And most of the time, people are very open to it, because you know, you're new, they're new. And this is a new idea together. Having a buddy or partner to go with, in some cases even a small team, is fantastic. I think the harder part is when they are really passionate, and their idea already is being built or, you know, we tried this idea five years ago, and it's just not a fit for us. Those are moments where you just feel like, Well, no, man, you still did great. You want everyone to win, and it'ss basically how we have to define the winning because of course, there's just not capacity at the bank to build out every new idea. And even though they're great ideas, sometimes, we even have a struggle with letting go of ideas that are good, it's just not a fit, or it's just already been done or this is not a time to pursue it. And those are just struggles that I think anyone who gets excited about something might feel.

Tim Bornholdt 36:12
Yeah, I would think a lot of people might come when you've already tried an idea, and you've gone through it, and it just didn't work. And then people keep coming back with the same ideas. And you have to keep saying, We've tried this. We can try it if you have a different way of approaching it maybe, we could try that. But you know, you can't just keep throwing time and resources at an idea that isn't gonna pan out.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 36:40
Yeah, no. And that is the hardest part, right, is when to kill your favorite child, in a way. Sometimes my former boss, who is the chief innovation officer, he'd say like, We got a lot of puppies, like, let's watch the puppies. You're right. We don't need any more puppies. And that's part of the discipline. The bank needs us to be turning through a bunch of different things to find the ones that we definitely want to bet on. So it just comes with the territory, even though sometimes it makes you feel uncomfortable, right?

Tim Bornholdt 37:17
And I would imagine, maybe not going with the puppy metaphor, but just thinking that you have a lot of ideas out there, how do you avoid just continually chasing shiny objects? When you're going after a new initiative or you're trying to get a problem solved, do you really just try to focus on that? Or do you just sometimes say, Screw it, we're gonna go after the shiny object, just see what happens?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 37:47
Well, some days that might depend on who you ask. Because there are some new, really exciting technologies out there, right, but they're not always the right fit or maybe we find them at the wrong time, too, which is often hard. But I think we tend to focus on the problem fits, and then the value fits. And I like to say does the wheel of analysis of all these factors determine if it's really something that goes forward. I think the learning and experimentation helps us learn some of that faster. And then of course, as a result of those experiments, you ask yourself questions around it, like, Oh, well, is this really something that would get the kind of revenue or this is a new customer experience? Or do we have other similar ones? Right? And so that is something that's definitely evolved with us over time, especially as we're going into new spaces, is that you don't want to build the wrong thing, or the thing that's too soon, or maybe you do want to build something that's too soon. But you have to sort of think of how you're going to plan it out through a roadmap. And I think that's where it's a team approach. And we've got great advisors within the bank, a lot of senior management helps us and, sometimes we have to make those decisions, and in some cases, those decisions not to do things together. It is definitely an art, and some days, it works really well and other days, it's like, what? How are we here? Because that's that human and the thinking and part of it makes me feel like that's what keeps it good is that you are sort of struggling with some of these decisions, because that means you've been really thoughtful, and you're thinking a lot about them, and you're trying to be thorough. So it's definitely not something that feels like it's an instant, Yep, this is a thing. No, that's not a thing, right? There's definitely more vetting that happens through that.

Tim Bornholdt 39:45
Well, Stephanie, this was incredibly insightful for me. Again, not having a whole lot of experience in the corporate world and from an outsider's perspective, you just get these caricatures in your head of the big boss looming down on everybody and not listening at all. And it doesn't seem like that's how it is at all at US Bank. And I really appreciate you taking the time to share some insights with us on innovation. If anybody has any more questions or any thoughts, any way that people can connect with you, social media or anything like that?

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 40:20
Yeah, you know, I'm on Twitter. I like LinkedIn quite a bit. I get a lot of folks reaching out about different things. And I don't know, it's kind of easy to connect there. And then, you know, you can kind of see if there's mutual topics you want to share. But yeah, I'd be happy to answer your questions or thoughts even, right? I mean, it's always about learning. And I think the one thing I really love about being in this Minneapolis community is that there's a lot of people who want to learn with you. And they've got great ideas. And so yeah, always open to new people and new ideas.

Tim Bornholdt 40:50
Fantastic. Well, thanks again for joining us today, Stephanie.

Stephanie Hammes-Betti 40:53
Yes. Thanks for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 40:56
A huge thanks to Stephanie for joining me today on the podcast. Make sure you look her up on LinkedIn and Twitter if you want to stay in touch. Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the promising Jordan Daoust.

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