Creative finance sounds like an oxymoron.
However, any company that wants to compete in today’s business environment must get comfortable with this duo.
The role of the finance function is changing- today, more and more organizations are looking towards their finance function as a driver of strategy. Growth often comes from seeing things in a new light, and this is often the result of creativity.
For finance professionals, this means combining the rigor of financial analysis with the ability to see opportunities and risks from different angles.
Did you know: taking a calligraphy class after quitting college gave a certain acclaimed co-founder the idea for the typography that gave his company it’s reputation for style (we reveal this individual’s identity at the end of the article).
What’s the best way to cultivate creativity?
The two most effective ways are to adopt tools that allow more time for thought, and supporting diversity of thought.
Spend more time analyzing and attempting to think differently.
Data visualization tools: Creative ways to get your points across
Data visualization tools are the best way to interact with data. Since the human brain processes visual information faster than written information, visualization tools allow you to examine your numbers in a way that makes more sense to people.
Observe connections and communicate findings with peers and executives by encapsulating complex data and in a series of, or even in a single, graphic. Visual representations speak to people, so this is sure get conversations going and ideas flowing.
BI tools can help you make this happen.
A top BI tool is Power BI, Microsoft's BI platform. Power BI allows you to create and share interactive data visualizations across global datacenters, including national clouds to meet your compliance and regulation needs.
Another excellent on is Zoho Analytics, which helps you merge data from different sources and create meaningful reports. With an easy editor, you can create personalized reports and dashboards enabling you to zoom into the important details.
One existing solution that was created specifically for finance professionals is DataRails. finance professionals can access and leverage financial and operational data independently, regardless of technical competency. The solution offers an excellent Insights feature that allows you to work with data that is pulled from any organizational system and any relevant Excel file.
I use creative tools and visual ways of informing and educating my clients. I love finding new ways to take information and put it into a visual format to enhance someone’s understanding. If I’m able to convert these complex legal indentures into a 2-3 page visual summary, and through that visual summary, the client finally understands for the first time what these legal documents mean, then the “ah ha” moment happens! That knowledge and understanding empowers them, and that’s fun! -Susan Hartley Moss, Senior Vice President and Senior Wealth & Fiduciary Advisor
Think different: Creative thinking as a source of innovation
Cloud finance solutions like DataRails make it possible to compare, measure, and analyze data, increasing your chances of coming across important insights.
But generally speaking, how can you encourage creative thought?
Within finance departments there are a few ways.
Oftentimes, creativity can result from simple interactions. Encourage interdepartmental interaction and mingling to get cross-functional departments familiar with each other, and conduct cross-training between them.
This will get people acquainted with diverse schools of thought and promote openness of thinking.
Cultivate a culture of innovation:
Change often comes from trying something new, and with today’s resources finance teams have a lot to gain from taking calculated risks.
However if your organization has cultivated a culture of fear, you can be sure no employee will be taking chances if it means running the risk of punishment, whether real or imagined.
Finance leaders speak the language of numbers. For this reason, try to show finance leaders how a mindshift has the potential to impact their bottom line.
Recognize the little things. Making surprise connections, also known as associational thinking, can be a source of business advantage.
Make it clear that this sort of effort is encouraged by praising, and maybe even compensating, individuals who are in the right direction.
Creativity as a source of innovation
Find ways to encourage creativity and you’ll empower your finance team to find better, more strategic answers to your organization’s challenges.
Oh, and the co-founder mentioned earlier in the article? That was Steve Jobs.
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while." — Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple