Management

'Encourage Courage'

Four steps CFOs can take to inspire creative thinking.

May 21, 2013
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Creativity can't be outsourced.

In fact, it's definitely now a "must-have" skill for businesses--and chief financial officers (CFO) can lead the way to foster those skills, said entrepreneur and author Josh Linkner in his opening keynote address during the 19th Annual CUNA CFO Council Conference in Phoenix, Monday.

Creativity applies each time you connect with employees, members, and vendors. It applies to how you conduct your staff meetings. Creativity is hands-down the most-cited attribute of business success, Linkner says.
 
Understand that your job title has nothing to do with your creativity, Linkner adds. As CFOs, your true value to your credit unions is how you use your imaginations to provide insights, not just data. Doing so will bring success.
 
He cites a study in which 98% of kindergarteners answered yes to the question, "Are you creative?" But just 2% of high-schoolers identified themselves as creative. 
 
Sadly, we don't grow into creativity, Linkner says, "we grow out of it."
 
He offers four ways to inspire your creative juices:
 
1. Encourage courage. 
 
"Fear strips us of our creative mojo," Linkner says. Celebrate new ideas at your credit union without judgment. Mistakes can lead to breakthroughs.
 
2. Shed the past. 
 
Don't be like Polaroid, the once-giant of the camera world that ignored pleas from employees to change. The company's leaders said no to change because they didn't want to cannibalize their core business.
 
 "Be the cannibal--the disruptor--so you won't be cannibalized," he says.
 
3. Reject bureaucracy.
 
This is difficult in today's highly regulated industry and your traditional CFO job roles. The antidote: Think small. Think like a start-up that embraces risk, rather than avoids it.
 
4. Run your own race. 
 
Christian Louboutin designs shoes with distinctive red-lacquered soles. What's your specific color, he asks? 
 
"Unlock the 'creative' line on your balance sheet," Linkner told the group. 
 
"Stick your finger in the eye of the status quo and seize the opportunities waiting outside the door."

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