I’ve spent some time thinking this over. And I think we need to have a broader conversation about the Monzo Community and what it’s for.
The Community was great in its early days. Tom would pop on and have a chat. We’d have weekly Q&As. We’d know most of what was going on.
But Monzo is significantly bigger now and things don’t work the same. And the current conversation over Monzo Plus has, I think, exposed - but not caused - some of the fault lines in the current model.
If the current model is broken, it’s time to fix it. Here are some ideas:
Do a Mozilla
Let’s start by looking at the Mozilla Open Design project. It was 2016 and Mozilla wanted to rebrand. They took a radical step - to do it in the open and involve their community. They published what they were trying to do, made it clear that they were not looking for free design work and that there would be no votes. But they kept their community updated at every step of the way: from asking questions of their early principles, down to short lists to choices they didn’t make and not only the final result but also what came next.
Mozilla have four steps in their open design framework: Ideation*, Conception, Refinement, Guidance. Perhaps Monzo could do similar? And let’s not constrain this to visual design - let’s think of it as designing a financial control centre - so architecture as well as furnishings.
Under this model, engagement on paid accounts might have started early. When there was an idea, but before there was a name. Some blog posts around what strategic problems Monzo is looking to solve, some questions for the Community. Some decisions made. Then we move on to the next steps. What might a paid account for Monzo look like? What value proposition should there be for Monzo and for the customer? What names for the product might there be? And so on, working in the open until you reach a conclusion.
This isn’t about giving the Community a vote. It’s about being committed to Radical Transparency. Building engagement. Sharing research, insight and progress.
Commit and Put People On Point
Community needs commitment and discipline. When it was a start-up, it was the best way to promote, get press and to market - for a minimal outlay. The founders ‘got it’ and it came naturally. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone (and that’s not a bad thing - everyone is different overall).
So now it needs some conscious focus. It needs the right mix of people and the right approach within Monzo. I worry a bit that this shouldn’t all fall on the shoulders of product marketers. Indeed, marketing and community are actually quite different. So you need the right person with the right aptitude in every squad and make them your ‘community person’. That doesn’t need to be a new job - just someone (like a @Bruno) who will lead on community engagement in addition to their day job.
Scare Yourselves: Redouble the Radical Transparency
Lots of corporate folk will be reading the above and going ‘what about our proprietary data?’ ‘what about our market research?’ ‘what about our ideas? ‘What if our competitors know them?!!’.
Here’s my challenge: what would happen if your competitors did know? If you’re working at a competitor bank, what would you want to do differently if you knew what Monzo was up to? More importantly what could you do differently?
Similarly, if you’re at Monzo and you know the plans for HSBC, Lloyds and Starling for the next 3 years, how much will that change what you do? Do you have confidence in your own path or do you change?
My advice: Scare yourself. Give it a go.
And extend the radical transparency elsewhere. Publish more. We love the geeky insight that Monzonauts brings into the forum on how Mastercard and other network operate. We read about regulation and what banks are being asked to do. Publish, openly, your responses to Government or FCA consultations. Hell, before you publish ask the Community for our view. And send in two: one for Monzo and one on behalf of the Community - crowdsourced from the Community (be it the forum, Facebook, Twitter…)
Test and iterate
These ideas might not be the right ones. But there will be something that fits. Let’s test some out on a project. It might work, it might not. Let’s give it a go and either bank it or fix it.
We, the Community, Need to Step Up
Finally, this isn’t all about Monzo. It’s about us and our conduct.
If things are to change then we need commitment from the Community. It means that we need to acknowledge that Monzo has grown up. We need to accept that Monzo is a commercial endeavour and that it isn’t a democracy. And that transparency doesn’t equal voting. Nor does it mean that we have a right to information (indeed - this form of engagement is a privilege and we need to cherish it).
Finally, we need to accept that sometimes Monzo will need to make difficult decisions - and that we won’t always be happy with all of them.
These are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.