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Inspiring Innovation that Drives Growth: A Top CFO Challenge

Inspiring Innovation that Drives Growth: A Top CFO Challenge

A lack of new ideas and excessive bureaucracy are the two major hindrances to organizational innovation, according to a new Robert Half survey of more than 1,400 CFOs at U.S. companies with at least 20 employees.

The survey, which asked respondents about the "greatest barrier"

A lack of new ideas and excessive bureaucracy are the two major hindrances to organizational innovation, according to a new Robert Half survey of more than 1,400 CFOs at U.S. companies with at least 20 employees.

The survey, which asked respondents about the "greatest barrier" that is keeping their companies from becoming more innovative, found 35 percent cited a lack of new ideas. Another 24 percent said there was too much red tape, while 20 percent noted they were too busy with daily tasks and correcting day-to-day issues.

"Innovation is the driving force behind every successful business," Max Messmer, the chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Half International, said in a release. "Managers should do their best to stretch and challenge their teams to combat complacency."

Forbes reports another recent survey conducted by Capgemini Consulting found 43 percent of responding companies around the world have a formal innovation executive, an increase from 33 percent the year prior. However, only 11 percent had a strategy that involved employees and not just executives, the study found.

Comments

Michael Breier
Title: Partner
Company: Shepard Schwartz & Harris LLP
(Partner, Shepard Schwartz & Harris LLP) |

As a former audit and consulting partner in a CPA firm, I felt innovation was stifled simply because it was not encouraged. I hark back to a time when I was helping my father do some yard work and I hastily put a garden hose back in the garage in a tangled heap. When my father asked why I did that, I replied by telling him "because that was the way I found the hose in the first place". He responded, "you will find in life son that you will be very successful if you try to leave things better than you found them". Whenever a young auditor would say to me "because that is how it was done last year", I would relay my father's advice and then make sure I recognized employees in some way for leaving things better than they found them. The recognition encouraged them to look for things they could improve and innovate upon, simply because it was encouraged.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Lack of leadership and acceptance of new ideas stop many companies from growing, including a myopic point of view as to what business the company really is in.

Read this (originally written in 1960) from HBR: Marketing Myopia http://hbr.org/2004/07/marketing-myopia

Steve Marino
Title: Controller
Company: National Support Services, LLC
(Controller, National Support Services, LLC) |

The findings probably just reinforce what most of us already know. If you want to inspire innovation that drives growth your culture has to (1) enable and (2) reward such innovation.
In order to enable it, people must have the time to think out of the box. This becomes an increasingly difficult challenge to the companies that take on the economic challenges we face by reducing staffing and causing remaining people to work more hours to accomplish the tasks on which their performance is measured. Every leader must address business challenges based on the specifc situation they're dealing with, so I'm not criticizing this decision/approach, only pointing out the challange to driving innovation. If you can manage through these difficult economic times by improving efficiencies (processes, systems, etc.) thereby creating time for people to think, you have a better chance of fostering creativity. In addition, there needs a highly visible channel for communicating ideas for growth. This channel has to have the resources to address the opportunities on a timely basis, and respond to the individuals that generated them. When considering resource requirements, you need to recognize that most of the suggestions will either (a) have been considered and dismissed for good business reasons, or (b) be misguided (though well intended) due to the limited perspective of the person rasing the opportunity.
The reward can be anything from recognition (which is often the best reward) through some percentage of the financial benefit realized by the company as a result of pursuing the opportunity. Specific reward programs are too complex to address in this note.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Innovation is observed two ways, privately and publicly, and usually is the result of self motivation. When an employee takes on a new job, they usually improve the process slightly, as it makes their personal life easier. The best public motivator that I have seen, that works, is a monthly process improvement contest. The individual that submits the best idea for the month, receives a company sponsored dinner or gift card. It is a very small price to pay for an idea that could make your processes faster, leaner and cheaper.