Articles

Solving Problems with the Resources You Already Have

  • By Joanne Oh
  • Published: 8/4/2022
Gears and light bulbs

Corporate treasury and finance professionals are often tasked with solving big problems using existing resources. Dr. Simone Ahuja makes the case that a growth mindset and a simple toolkit of strategies are all you need to generate high-value solutions.

In a recent episode of the AFP Conversations podcast, Jeff Glenzer, AFP’s executive vice president and COO, sat down with Dr. Ahuja, the speaker for the AFP 2022 Certification Keynote, sponsored by PNC, to talk about a more flexible approach to innovation that empowers people at all levels to come up with new solutions. Here are five things we learned from the conversation …

SHIFT FROM TRADITIONAL TO JUGAAD INNOVATION

Innovation, at its core, is about adding value in new ways. Traditionally, innovation is expensive, rigid and top-down. Jugaad innovation, on the other hand, is frugal and flexible.

Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that refers to hacking a solution. As an approach to innovation, it focuses on what you can do with the resources you have, using improvisation and ingenuity to make up for resources that may be missing.

One benefit of jugaad innovation is that it democratizes the process and makes it more inclusive — both for the people involved in solving the problems and for the people who will benefit from the solutions.

AFP Conversations LogoCheck out the full discussion on the AFP Conversations Podcast.
Listen here.

DEFINE YOUR PRIORITIES AND PURPOSE

Ultimately, innovation should help you advance your existing goals better and faster. To accomplish this, organizations need to clearly define their priorities. Determining what is and is not moving the needle will help organizations focus their efforts for maximum impact.

Purpose is also crucial as a driver of innovation and entrepreneurship. When people feel connected to their work, they want to put in more effort. And by mapping work against a mission, people can feel that they are making progress.

COMBAT FEAR OF FAILURE WITH A CULTURE OF LEARNING

Reframe the concept of failure as a learning process. This shift in thinking, known as a growth mindset, embraces the idea that our capacities are not fixed and views learning as a win in itself.

When you begin to pursue a new idea, you are working off of a hypothesis that is based on some broad knowledge. Sometimes the hypothesis works, and other times it does not. Either way, you are still learning, which is crucial to innovation.

CREATE BIG IMPACT THROUGH MICRO-ACTIONS

Corporate treasury and finance professionals are often trained to follow very rigid processes that favor risk aversion. But even in a tightly regulated industry, there are opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving. To find these opportunities, innovators ask two questions:

  1. Am I solving the right problem? Innovation does not have to be something huge. In fact, Dr. Ahuja found that for most organizations 70% of innovation happens within their core business. The smallest improvements to a daily process can add up to create big impact.
  2. How can I use my constraints? Even constraints can turn into opportunities for leveraging creativity. When working with existing regulation, this could look like finding new ways to apply your knowledge within the framework that is already there.

Wondering how constraints can turn into an advantage? Need a plan for turning actions into impact? Dr. Ahuja will share her five-step process for innovation during the Certification Keynote, sponsored by PNC, at AFP 2022 in Philadelphia, October 23-26. Register by September 16 to save $350.

FOSTER HABITS THAT FORM AN INNOVATION CULTURE

Culture change can occur at all levels of an organization, all the way down to micro-cultures focused on small groups or individual people. For example, within a recurring meeting, you can build in time for everyone to share an idea. Starting this type of conversation within an existing format helps build a habit of talking about new ideas, which ultimately builds a culture of innovation.

A simple way leaders can embed creativity and ingenuity into their team is by asking their team questions. In what areas do they see people struggling? Are there procedures that make them wonder, “Why do we do things this why?” The answers to these questions can become the starting points for innovation.

For organizations that were able to innovate more during the pandemic, Dr. Ahuja’s advice is to pinpoint why and how this innovation flourished. To avoid slipping back to the old way of doing things, you need to be deliberate about incorporating the specific actions that will make the new practices stick.

Dr. Simone Bhan Ahuja is the founder of Blood Orange, a global innovation and strategy firm headquartered in Minneapolis, USA. She is co-author of the international bestseller, Jugaad Innovation, called “the most comprehensive book yet on the subject” on frugal innovation by the Economist. This practical innovation playbook makes clear how and why leaders must support the passionate and purpose-driven “intrapreneurs” inside their organizations to drive innovation and achieve sustainable growth. Dr. Ahuja has served as an advisor to MIT’s Practical Impact Alliance and Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. She provides innovation and strategy advisory and consulting services to organizations including 3M, UnitedHealth Group, Procter & Gamble, Target Corp, Stanley Black & Decker, and the World Economic Forum. Dr. Ahuja is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and a practitioner of improvisational comedy.

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