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Putting Art in Banking


Many of the brands, products and services in the market that are coveted by people are done so for more than their features, symbol or status alone. They have in a way taken advantage of the magical mathematical formula of 1+1=3. They have become more than the sum of their parts. They are cultish, desired and aspirational. We seek to bring them into our lives not only because of what they do and how they make us feel but also because of the tribe it identifies us with.

It may just be my own cynicism but people don't often talk that way about their bank. But what might it take for that to happen? My guess is its a long journey from commodity to cult but while sitting in my company's newly convened innovation committee last week, I thought quite a bit about that. And in that thinking, where my mind went was, "before we would develop a cult-like following, wouldn't we have to believe in ourselves and our mission in the same way?" And if that would be the case, "How might we get ourselves that fired up about the work we do?"

I recalled later on some remarks by the poet David Whyte, who I heard discussing the day he started working for corporations, which is an odd thought. A poet working for a company? But when the CEO who ended up recruiting him made the original proposition he said, "The language we have in that world is not large enough for the territory that we’ve already entered.” The way his company talked about themselves and their work did not give them permission to dream and push the limits. It grounded them in their day-to-day work rather than the future. Whyte's quote resonated with my and the bank's situation. The way we as a bank and a culture talk about checking accounts, lines of credit, mobile deposit and wire transfers are rarely, if ever, soaring language, aspirational, or an experience people would covet. Its talked about as something typical and ordinary. And that is therefore, how it is treated by customers and employees.

But what if we used poetry and the arts to describe our mission and act as a north star? Something tells me with the right dedication and resources that might be the beginning of something remarkable and valuable.

Go Forth Boldly

p.s. Need an example of poetry serving a purpose in the workplace? Give a listen to the poem David Whyte presented on behalf of Boeing as it introduced its 777 airplane.


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