Creativity in Finance

As a strategic consultant I facilitated quite some cultural transformation programs in the last years, specifically for large corporates in the financial sector. The objective was always to move from a very risk-averse process culture towards a more performance and empowerment-oriented culture. Or in other words, from ‘do what you have to do and make no mistakes’ to ‘raise the bar, go for more effectiveness and impact, and do this by unlocking the maximum potential of the people’.

In this specific sector – finance – creativity takes many forms. At first sight, creativity is being frowned upon. When I asked people during a team coaching who finds himself a creative person, few hands raise in the air. And the ones who do, do it with a sense of shame. As if they conclude they don’t belong here, as creative persons, in an environment where the opposite seems to be enforced.

But in fact this journey in the financial sector opened up a new perspective on creativity for me. Not the wild, limitless, daredevil kind of creativity, but the subtle, tactical, everyday kind. Taking risks without putting the bank at risk.

I define creativity as the ability to unlearn existing patterns and routines and to create new ones. Like that moment when your job in which you have gained expertise in the last 10 years is being nearshored to a low-cost country and you have to reinvent yourself. Or that time when the data protection policy in which you have operated since 2003 is changed and you have to adapt the way your marketing automation process is working. Or that moment when you get a new team leader. Or new clients, with new challenges. Suddenly it seems that creativity is indeed everywhere. And that next to compliance, creativity is a key competence to survive in this complex, highly regulated world. In fact, as Dizzie Gilespie, the famous jazz saxophonist, put it: “Making something simple complicated is commonplace, but making something complex simple, that’s creativity.”

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