Prophix’s US user conference challenged delegates to “Reframe the Usual”, take a different perspective of familiar business practices and to reach for higher planes. It’s a clarion call that resonated perfectly with FSN’s research around innovation in the finance function. The study found that 11% of finance functions rarely, if ever, discuss innovation and a further 54% protested that they would like to be more innovative but rarely get the time, funding or support from the rest of the board to invest in innovation. So that’s 65% of finance organisations for whom innovation is not on the agenda. If ever there was a time to ‘reframe the usual’ it is now.
Fascinatingly the conference was hosted in the USA where the audience may have been more likely to rise to the challenge. FSN’s study found that US companies were half as likely to shelve innovative products through ‘fear of failure’ compared to European businesses. It’s fair to say that US companies are more positive about innovation and more likely to be early adopters of new technology.
Cultural barriers loom large in the innovation landscape, but guest speaker and broadcaster, Polly LaBarre hinted that much of it is in the mind. Quoting Richard Buckminster Fuller, she said “I am convinced all of humanity is born with more gifts than we know. We are all born geniuses and just get de-geniused rapidly”.
So the obvious question is how do we change?
FSN’s research points to the need for a dedicated innovation champion, a dedicated chart of account line or budget called innovation, and incorporating innovation objectives into personal appraisals. Polly LaBarre, encourages us to “seek out the subversive” i.e. the person who will challenge the corporate norms, maximise group genius and change the way projects are assessed to eliminate endless rounds of procrastination.
In a world that is moving faster than we are, then we have no choice but to innovate if we are not to be left behind. The 11% of laggards who rarely discuss innovation know this and are the most likely to acknowledge that the finance function will fall behind the rest of the organisation and the business as a whole will fall behind the market.
It’s not easy to change but the first step in the journey is to acknowledge the need. ‘Reframe the Usual’ was a bold conference title, but very apposite and timely.
By Gary Simon, BSc, FCA, FBCS, CITP
Chief Executive of FSN & Leader of the FSN Modern Finance Forum on LinkedIn, with more than 52,000 members