Treasurers today hear the same demands over and over: Get
outside your group, add strategic value to the C-suite and board of
directors and, of course, do more with less. But how?
Tom Kelley, general manager of leading design firm IDEO, will
offer advice to help treasurers innovate when he speaks at the AFP Annual Conference,
A self-described "innovation practitioner" whose company's
successes include PNC's popular Virtual Wallet and Bank of
America's "Keep the Change" program, Kelley understands that
treasurers want to innovate but often get caught up in critical
day-to-day tasks. "The problem with innovation lives in what
Stephen Covey would call Quadrant Two: It's the important, but not
urgent stuff," said Kelley. "And the nature of work life today is
there's a lot of urgent stuff every day, and so it's tempting to
set some of that innovation aside.
"And yet, innovation happens."
Kelley believes treasurers should rely on "cross-pollination"
for inspiration-getting ideas from other countries, other cultures
and, most important, other generations. "For the first time in
human history, you need mentors that are not five or 10 or 20 years
older than you. Now you need mentors that are five or 10 or 20
years younger than you," he said. "I call them reverse mentors. I
actually have two reverse mentors, learning from people who are
less experienced than me but have different experiences."
Reverse mentors are the single best way to help translate ideas
into action, Kelley believes. "I have had hundreds of people say to
me, 'Oh, Tom, I tried out the reverse mentor thing and, man, does
that work,'" he said.
As for providing value to CEOs and the board, Kelley knows that
treasurers have plenty of data to share. But he believes that's not
want executives want-at least, not necessarily in raw form. Rather,
treasurers need to tell a story with their information.
"My firm was slow to come around to story-telling, too," Kelley
confided. "It is a really, really important skill in which you take
the numbers and you craft it into a message that is memorable, that
is accessible to the CEO-who may not be a finance professional.
"We used to think that data should speak for itself, but data is
very perishable," he added. "You tell an audience even a single
number, seven digits or less, and they start to forget it right
away. But we-all of us-are carrying around stories that we heard
even in early childhood."
Tom Kelly of IDEO will speak at AFP's Annual Conference in
Miami on October 16 at 8:30 am.