WWJD? (What Would Jerry Garcia Do?)


It’s a question that I’m sure is on the minds of many people. What would Jerry do?

Jerry Garcia, that is. And what he would do, if he were a credit union CEO, that is.

[slideshare id=11736195&w=425&h=355&sc=no]

It’s a question that I’ve addressed in two recent conference presentations, first at the CU Directors Conference last summer, and then again to the Young & Free Spokesters’ meeting held the day before the CU Water Cooler conference last fall.

In hindsight, can you think of two more inappropriate groups to present this to? The first is a group of folks whose average age has to be around 70 (which, I guess is pretty close to the age of the Grateful Dead members, come to think of it).  The second is a group of folks who weren’t even born when I first starting going to Grateful Dead concerts.

Nevertheless, I tried to convey what credit union execs could learn from the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia.

I’m hardly the first to try. There’s even a book out about marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead. An interesting read, but I think it misses some key points. You can’t simply look back at what the Dead did and call it a “best practice” or “lesson learned.” The band had no clue what it was doing. It ended up making some good decisions (and a lot of bad ones), but good, modern management principles were hardly at play there.

I don’t quite get the interest people have in downloading other people’s presentations, but, if you want the slides, you can get it off SlideShare.

The key takeaway from this deck is about strategy. The real “lesson” from the Grateful Dead can be boiled down to one thing: Business model.

In the mid-60s, there was a prevailing business model for bands: Get a record deal, cut a record, and tour in support of the album.

The Dead failed miserably at that model. They said “screw albums, let’s try to make a living by playing live.” If you think their decision to let fans record concerts and freely share those tapes was based on some great foresight on the impact it would have, then you’re doing the same drugs they did in those days.

The point is this: They created a new business model. And they made it work.

Fast forward 45 years to 2012, and the financial services industry is in need of new business models.

Social media is not a business model. Pinterest is not a business model. Innovation is not a business model.

A business model is how you make money. What you charge for, and what you don’t charge for. Today’s prevalent business model in financial services is broken. What people pay for is misaligned with what value they get (if they get any value).

If Jerry were a credit union CEO, he’d create a new business model. And it would be a really groovy business model, I’m sure of that.

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