The THINK Conference Turns 10!

The THINK Conference Turns 10!

The THINK Conference Turns 10!

Next week, for the 10th time, CO-OP will host the credit union industry’s most transformative conference. THINK 17 will not only introduce new ideas about bringing your credit union into the digital era, but will also give you tools, help you build a strategic platform, get you to the launch pad and help you fire the rockets. Like every THINK conference, THINK 17 will be unlike any conference you’ve attended – and that’s true even if you’ve attended all nine previous THINKs.

On the eve of the 10th THINK conference, here’s a quick look back at a (near) decade of THINKing:

What is THINK?

In 2008, a few rogue thinkers at CO-OP wondered what might happen if they switched up the annual shareholders meeting and user conference with some original programming. For Samantha Paxson, now Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, idle thinking quickly led to big plans.

“We were inspired by the idea of offering real thought leadership to clients,” Paxson says. “No one else was doing this in the credit union space, so we had to create our own vision for how it might be done. It was daunting but also incredibly motivating.”

THINK 08 departed from every conventional trade conference that came before it. The focus was on big-picture thinking, looking outside the industry for inspiration and innovating for the future. The first THINK featured speakers from the hottest companies of the day, including Starbucks and Harley Davidson. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak delivered a keynote, during which he revealed that a credit union helped Apple get its start.

THINK through the years

The mold was broken and a new model was born. Over the years, the THINK stage has played host to a remarkable array of keynote speakers – digital media agitator Gary Vaynerchuk, Tesla Motors innovator JB Straubel, bestselling author Margaret Heffernan and “Got Milk” co-creator Jeff Manning, to name a few. For a quick video sampling, check out last year’s keynote by Fast Company co-founder Polly LaBarre (“Mavericks at Work”) or 2015’s presentation by Upworthy founding editor Sara Critchfield (“Data-Driven Emotional Connection”).

THINK was the first credit union conference to feature an all-keynote speaker lineup. But it also evolved over the years to include a number of breakthrough experiences:

  • THINK It Out discussions that match keynote speakers with credit union insiders to help apply big-picture thinking to the industry
  • The THINK Prize, rewarding credit union innovators for their best ideas
  • Live on-stage focus groups to bring the consumer voice into the conversation
  • Hands-on innovation workshops that walk participants through the process of developing and executing new ideas
  • Live consultations to solve real-world credit union issues in a collaborative atmosphere

A nation of THINKers

Then, of course, there are the people who attend THINK. Though THINK attendees all hail from the credit union industry, they form a particular tribe. While the rest of the industry was still figuring out what social media was, THINKers became early adopters of Twitter and created their own virtual conference using the hashtag #COOPTHINK. THINKers aren’t afraid of change:  At THINK 13, 80 percent said the credit union movement should pursue massive, not measured, change in order to stay relevant.

In response to participant requests for year-round inspiration, CO-OP’s THINK team works 12 months out of the year to create THINK programming that ranges from blog posts to webinars, live events and purpose-driven initiatives.

“THINKers have given us the drive to re-invent this gathering every year,” says Paxson. “We want to apply the same innovative thinking and enthusiasm we see in our audiences to the THINK experience, so that every year credit union innovators can come together to learn more, actively innovate and fuel up for the big challenges we all face.”

Check Insight Vault over the next few weeks for THINK 17 updates, and visit to learn more about our THINK initiatives.