What does trying to write with your non-dominant hand have to do with the ARM industry? Join Erin Kerr as she discusses that, and more, with Michael Meyer, Chief Risk and Innovation Officer at MRS BPO. Some highlights include:

  • What kind of risk tolerance makes sense

  • How to encourage your employees to think differently

  • What key phrase might alert you that changes need to be made to a process or department

The full transcript of this interview can be found below:


[Erin] Thanks for joining us today for another installment of Think Differently. This is a feature of the insideARM Innovation Council, where true innovators in the ARM industry converge. I'm excited to be joined today by Michael Meyer, Chief Risk and Innovation Officer at MRS BPO. Michael, how are you today?

[Michael]: Oh, I'm doing great; feeling very blue.

[Erin]: Great. Thanks so much for joining me today, Michael. One of the goals of this series, as you know, and most of our audience knows, is to inspire our audience to think differently in all aspects of collections and the ARM industry. But today we're here to talk more about how to think differently, especially in the ARM industry. Michael, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?


[Michael]:  Hi everyone. I'm Michael Meyer. I'm the Chief Risk and Innovation Officer. I work for Mrs. BPO. I've been there almost 22 years, kind of hard to believe. It just seems like yesterday. And I oversee risk and innovation for the company along with the infrastructure and security teams.

[Erin]: Great. Thanks so much for that background, Michael. So, let's talk a little bit about how to think differently. Let's start with an easy one, maybe. What do you think it means to think differently?

[Michael]: Well, I’ll kind of default to Steve jobs who I think kind of coined the phrase back in 1997 when he said “think different”. And I think everyone remembers his iconic commercial for the Macintosh. And, you know, he really is my essence of the person that thinks differently. And I love his quote that he had back then about thinking differently. And it really, he talked about the people that think different are the rebels. They're the troublemakers, they're the people that dare to change the world. And for me, that really sums up what it means to think different. It's capturing that essence of someone who wants to make a change and they're not afraid to do it.

[Erin]: Great. That's really good background on the subject. What tricks or tips can someone use to help them think more creatively or think differently?

[Michael]: Well, it's different for everybody.  Steve jobs believed that walking was very important and it helped increase his creativity. He was, he frequently had walking meetings and there's science behind that that shows you're more creative, you know, with idea generation when you are walking. So, you know, there's different things. So today I'm wearing a solid color shirt, you know, I like to wear stripes and, and checks, you know, often. So I thought I would kind of practice what I preach. I'm also wearing a bright color. So you know, those, those are things are clothing is one of the things that can help you feel different, obviously looks, we all probably have had, uh, teenage kids or seen teenage kids that have different color hair and have all different types of clothing. You know, they're kind of natural born rebels. So there's all sorts of looks that you can change. And of course there's things that you can do differently. So if you're, right-handed use your left hand, oftentimes if you write with your right hand, try writing with your left, you'll feel very awkward or feel very unusual. And those things are good. You can also put yourself in different places. You know, if you're not a nature person, go out for a walk in the park, or if you like the city go to the city, but go to a different place that you've ever been before. If you're not a museum person, go to museums, all sorts of different things that you can try doing, and you can get a good handle on this, that if something you don't like to do that tells you, Hey, you know what, go try doing it. You're going to have a different feeling, a different experience. And all of those things help you experience this ability to think different.

[Erin]: So I think those are some really good tips and tricks that we can use in our personal lives, which then would build into our business lives. And a common phrase that we hear in business that sort of prevents thinking differently is, well, that's how we've always done it. How can someone break out of that cycle?


Well, you know, that clue is a very important one and that tells you that, you know, what that particular process or that entire program or that department, those are important clues to say, “Hey, we have to try something different”. And often one of the best ways to do it is people think, oh, I've got to make a huge wholesale change. Well, no, oftentimes a little incremental change can have a huge outside effect. So the first way would be to talk to people and see if there's a little change you can make, whether it's a policy change or a beginning. So you don't have to make huge changes. You can talk to people. And oftentimes in business, we get caught up similar to our personal lives, where we talk to the same people the same way at the same time every day. So try talking to someone different and, you know, I will tell you one of the big things culturally in a business is that people are afraid. So when you hear these kind of buzzwords, you know, it's important to not be afraid. It's important to take your idea and do this. Recently, I was having dinner with someone and he said to me, you know what, nobody wants to hear my opinion. Nobody cares about it. And I will tell you that, you know, that's another thought that, you know, what we all have, things are very valuable to share and it's important to speak up. It doesn't have to be, you know, standing on the table or a chair, but it's important to share your opinion. We all have value to provide to our company. So I would say if you've usually silent meetings, speak up a little bit, try a little bit at first, try an idea. And you know what, if at first it doesn't work, try again, try something different, try and talking to someone else. These are all important things to try to help make the business better.

[Erin]: That's a great answer. And I think, you know, moving out of our own comfort zones is a way of thinking differently, but do you think thinking differently is always a risk?

[Michael]: Well, you know, the other kind of buzzword besides thinking differently is thinking out of the box, and I think most people are afraid to fail. And I think that's so closely linked with thinking differently because people think, oh, well, if I try something and it doesn't work out, oh, I'll fail and everybody will hold me accountable. Or, you know, they have this really, especially in our industry, it's a very risk averse environment where people are generally afraid of trying new things. And that's part of the culture of our industry and it permeates everything throughout our industry. So to answer your question, there is, it is important to take a risk, to try something a little different, and to understand that, you know what, by taking things incrementally and talking about these things, you can gradually change the environment from being risk averse, to being risk aware. And there's another important term is called “risk appetite”. And that's kind of like how much risk you're willing to take and our industry historically, it was very small. You know, if you, if you advocate to take a risk, you're often shut down, but in today's environment, especially that type of thinking is one that will unfortunately end up in making you very uncompetitive.

[Erin]: Absolutely. And those are some great high-level points, but let's get a little bit more specific and maybe a little bit more personal. Can you give an example, a specific example of a time when you thought differently and it didn't go well for you?

[Michael]: Well, I can tell you most of the ideas I come up with, initially people look at me kind of funny, or they go, Michael, that's stupid or this or that, but you know, it's having that perseverance to say, okay, if that doesn't work out, let me try this. Let me try that. It's an ability to keep trying. So, you know, there's, I would say the majority of the things that I say and ideas that I have are frequently shot down, you know, or, uh, you know, talked about, or if they're considered, they're like, well, you know, maybe not now. So, you know, I will tell you, I certainly try to pride myself on being an out of the box thinker, not afraid to take risks and certainly willing to say, you know what, okay, that doesn't work. Let me try this, let me try that.

You know, we're all helped by our environments and that's where people who think differently have to push back. So as far as me personally, I can tell you that, you know, in my career, you know, I'm very fortunate to work for two co CEOs who are willing to take a risk and they talk about it. It's a calculated risk. And over time sometimes it takes convincing. But oftentimes these are things that they'll look at me. Sometimes I go, yeah, that's just not the way it is, but it's that ability to take that and say, okay, let's try to shape it a little differently. Let's try to do that. So it, it comes from within. There’s, you know, there's a word, intrinsic, you know, it means it comes from within, and that is so important in our environment to keep going to ensure that no, no matter if you fail for the next two months or three months or four months, you know, you've got to keep going.

[Erin]:  So along those lines, what would you say to somebody who doesn't feel like they can take a risk by thinking differently?

[Michael]: Well, I would say, look, the history, you know, history is a great teacher. You know, one of the greatest icons in our country obviously is Edison. It was famously said, oh, I just found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. You know? So very few people have that ability to keep going. We’ve all heard of Dyson vacuum cleaners. You know, he famously tried 5,126 times before he found a bagless vacuum cleaner that worked the way that he thought it would work. And there's many other examples, Oprah Winfrey, and I'm from Maryland. I remember seeing her on the news, you know, J K Rowling with her Harry Potter books. She is an example of someone who failed most of her life. And finally tried your book wasn't instant success. Of course not. She had this submitted to so many people and kept going.

Uh, the guy who wrote all of the horror series books, you know, that so many people know so well, you know, it is, you know, he tried so many times and one of his most famous books, I believe it was Carrie. He finally threw it in the trash after 31 times. And it was his wife that took it out of the trash and said, ``Here, try it again”. So, you know, these are all household names now. They're all people that we know by what they've done. You know, there is, if you look at Star Wars, that movie almost didn't get made in a million different ways. Its actors, for the most part were all, you know, second rate, third bit actors, but you know what, it was the perseverance and all the trial and error that got it made. And it became obviously a global phenomenon.

So we know these things because people did not fail. We know these things because people try it again and try it again and try it again and try it again. You know, we all know about WD40, but you may not know it was the 40th time before that actually worked to disperse water. So that engineer tried and tried and tried again. So I will tell you Erin, the most important quality for someone that wants to make a change, whether it's little, whether it's major, whether it's in your department, whether it's on your team, whether it's in your group, whether it's in your business, whether it's in the industry is try, try, try, try, do not give up.

[Erin]: And I think that's some really good advice for people to take with them in their jobs and in their personal lives. On a larger scale, how can a business allow for, and even encourage its employees to think differently, and how can that contribute to success?

[Michael]: Well, I think we've all seen in the old days, you know, people put the box on the wall and it says, you know, submit ideas here. You know, the modern equivalent might be on the internet where you solicit ideas. I think it's part of a culture. And I think it's part that, you know, in compliance and risk, there's a phrase, the tone at the top. So I think that part of the answer is it starts at the top by recognizing it's okay to try and fail. And I think it also comes from employees having that, that, you know, all of us have failed so many times in life, you know, it's, you know, a good, another good example is a parent. How many parents, you know, when their kids fall down, how many parents go stay down, kid? You know, you're never getting up.

You failed, you know, that's it? No, of course not. You know, a parent goes, okay, get up. You pick up and you try and you try and you try the same with riding a bike. Oftentimes with driving a car, you know, oftentimes every facet of our life we've failed so much. So it comes from the person that comes from the company. So the company, I think I'll call this risk tolerance. It has to communicate and say, Hey, you know what? It's okay to fail. And you don't want to go after these, you know, like the proverbial witch hunts, you want to tell people, okay, you can fail within this band. Or, you know what? We're going to take a risk. We're going to try that. We're going to do that. And oftentimes these risks are calculated because let's face it. If something doesn't work out, you might lose money.

You might get sued. You might have your reputation damaged a little bit, but this is where, as the company, you have to realize that you're not going to get ahead, unless you take a risk. You can't stay sheltered in your room forever and do nothing. It's just not the way it works anymore. No business can survive. Especially in our industry. People have to realize change is coming. Technology is forcing a change. Our environment, regulatory changes are happening. So you've got to be willing to take a risk. So the tone at the top has to say, you know what, it's time we take it a risk, it's time we change. It's time. We do something different. And that starts with how we talk to our employees. It starts with how we reward failure. I know that sounds odd, but you know, it's time to celebrate failure, like a lot of technology companies too.

[Erin]: Okay. And you alluded to this a little bit in the point you were just making, but why is thinking differently so important, specifically in the ARM industry?

[Michael]: You know, in our industry, you know, I've been in it from a technology perspective from 22 years, I've seen tons of changes. And what I see coming up ahead of us based on technology, regulatory,environmental, you know, the changes with people, changes with our culture, changes with expectations, changes with customer experience becoming, you know, extreme and customers themselves demanding a much higher level. I can't think of any time in my career where I've heard of, you know, prior to that an industry where there's so many wins, headwinds coming, so many changes occurring simultaneously the only way to survive this number of changes in these magnitude of changes is to change and recognize that the company has to change. You know, we've all seen from a technology perspective where Amazon and some of the tech companies have dominated their industries. And they've done this through technology and data and a willingness to fail. And it's that willingness to fail and take risks that has helped propel them. You know, Facebook famously said, you have to move fast and break things. You know, Amazon with its Fire phone had a massive failure, but from that failure came Alexa, you know, look at Apple, all the different failures it's had. So these are hallmarks of different things that companies have to realize our industry is changing. And if you don't change, the world is going to change around you and leave you behind.

[Erin]: Absolutely. So thank you again, Michael, that concludes all the questions that I have for today. Any Final thoughts? Do you have anything you wanted to add here at the end?

[Michael]: So I would say, look at history, realize that the world is changing and realize that one person can make a change. All of the companies that I talked about and all the people I talked about, each of them made a huge impact in their companies and in the world. That's something you can do too. It's time to start today. Please do yourself a favor. Do your company a favor, do the world a favor, do something. Don't be afraid. Take a risk.


Okay. Well, thank you so much, Michael, for those words of wisdom. Again, this is has been a feature of Think Differently, which is available to many members of our Innovation Council. I really appreciate you spending some time with me today and everyone, thank you for watching. Michael, have a great day and everyone else, take care. 

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iA Innovation Council is a collaborative working group of product, tech, strategy, and operations thought leaders at the forefront of analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology. Group members meet in person (and lately, virtually) several times each year to engage in substantive dialogue and whiteboard sessions with the creative thinkers behind the latest innovations for the industry, the regulators who audit and establish guardrails for new technology, and educators, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside the industry who inspire different thinking. 

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