Staying relevant in an evolving world

I had gone down to the hotel lobby for a bucket of ice. In one of the meeting rooms, all my banking seminar classmates were watching a movie that our instructor had assigned for the next day’s class. Somehow, I missed the memo – probably because there was never a memo, only a GroupMe message.

I figured it out four days later, after missing a handful of other class meetings and announcements. And I thought I was being progressive when I listed “text” as my preferred communication method.

I obviously had never heard of GroupMe. Consequently, my group never heard from me. I was, in a way, inconsequential. That is, irrelevant.

Of all the things I’d like people to say about me, “relevant” is on the list. I want to matter – to my kids, to my wife, to my customers, to my employer.

The more the world changes – and the faster it changes – the harder it is to feel relevant. Fortunately, my banking school schedule included a course on keeping bank branches relevant in an internet banking world. It was taught by Dave Martin, a retail banking columnist for American Banker magazine.

Martin said the average American visits a bank branch two or three times per year. That may or may not be the number of times your internet banking system requires you to change your password.

Anyway, what is the need for a physical bank branch when you can do practically every banking task from the confines of your underwear?

Good question, and surely one my employer considered before opening a not-cheap 4,500 square foot banking center for me to run last year.

Cavernous bank lobbies are a holdover from when lines of customers snaked to and fro waiting to deposit paper paychecks. Today, checks are nearly extinct. Less than fifteen years ago, fifteen Federal Reserve check processing centers scattered the country. Only one remains.

Evolution is happening in every industry, Mr Martin observes with both a comforting addendum and a prescient warning: “Evolution does not mean elimination, but failing to evolve guarantees elimination.”

According to Martin, organizational progress gets threatened by three types of people. “Snipers” shoot down every idea that might move an organization or a person forward. They have a form of intelligence but deny its power.

“Historians” remember when every idea failed before. Never mind that the landscape may have changed in a way that will now grant the idea success. Historians are stuck in the good ‘ole days which are “good” primarily because you know how they turned out. The past didn’t kill you so it seems safe now.

“Jetsons” are futurists who saw the answer to every perplexity last night on the Discovery Channel. If you would just buy a new technology system or adopt the latest production technique, your performance issues would be solved.

Relevant people aren’t snipers – they fail more, not less, than average. They aren’t historians – they don’t trip on things behind them. They aren’t Jetsons – they recognize that success stems from the consistent application of good habits, that everything is hard until it is easy.

Mr Martin believes bank branches can still provide a place for people to get straight answers from people they trust about financial questions. They can profitably serve as the human interface of the bank’s online operations. They can stay relevant.

And I can learn to use GroupMe.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

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1 Response to “Staying relevant in an evolving world”


  1. 1 wendysanders76 August 8, 2015 at 10:10

    Hi Kevin! Thanks for these thought! I struggle with this too. Especially trying to renter the workforce after being in one job for 12 years. And don’t feel bad, I haven’t heard of GroupMe either…


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