IMA Moments

Build Business Success with Innovation

By Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA, CSCA, CAE
October 16, 2019
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“We believe innovation and a spirit of continuous improvement are engines that keep us relevant, vital, and growing. Our culture embraces creativity and seeks different perspectives. We behave like owners of a ‘business,’ managing risks and identifying new opportunities to serve members and advance the profession.” —from IMA’s Core Values

 

All five of our core values at IMA work together and are critical for organization success, along with our vision, mission, diversity commitment, and strategic goals. In this IMA Moments, we focus on the core value of innovation and continuous improvement. Here are my tips for implementing innovation that you can use in your organization.

 

LEADING FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

 

Implementing innovation starts with a genuine commitment from leadership and everyone in the organization. Innovation can manifest as a great new creation that literally changes the world, a new customer experience or technology, or something small that improves your day-to-day processes or the organization’s culture.

 

With new digital technologies springing up seemingly every day, there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference, but it starts with a commitment to funding innovation projects and “building innovation in” as part of your organizational “DNA” (vs. “bolting innovation on” in an ad hoc manner). Innovation expert Robert Tucker (who conducted a workshop recently for IMA) often says there is an innovator in every one of us.

 

A key question to ask is “How do you keep particular core values like innovation and continuous improvement top of mind?” One way is to keep talking about it throughout the entire organization, to include it in your strategic goals year after year, and to include it in the individual performance conversation—tone at the top and tone throughout. Core values are always part of the conversation when you discuss how you achieve during the quarter or year.

 

SKIN IN THE GAME

 

At IMA, we use a blend of methods to measure innovation. It’s in our culture, and employees know they can propose innovative ideas, which includes experimentation and pilots. In a more formal way, we measure innovation by investing in new products and services and launching new platforms that improve your user experience.

 

There are many examples of innovation from IMA, but a few of our tangible outputs this year include the Management Accountant Competency Framework, China’s “WeChat” education products, and a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) video contest for students to get engaged with the profession. IMA also offers a new ethics token with two free continuing professional education (CPE) credits per year, a dedicated technology and analytics website, and new courseware and certificate programs in analytics to be announced very soon!

 

As General George S. Patton once said, “If everybody is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” I suggest that you add to your reading list Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity, which was reviewed in the October issue of Strategic Finance. Simply put, diversity of thought leads to a culture of challenge and great outcomes for stakeholders and society.

 

The pace of change in technology is one driver for innovation. You almost have to innovate to stay relevant today, let alone to get ahead. The pace of change with robotics, AI, machine learning, and cognitive computing is outpacing our ability from a human talent perspective. And so innovation on products and services is one way to stay relevant and “get ahead.” Business is fiercely competitive, and it’s getting tougher to sustain profit and purpose.

 

Employees having the confidence and courage to develop new ideas and to challenge the status quo are essential parts of succeeding in today’s business environment.

 



Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA, CSCA, CAE, is IMA president and CEO. He also is a member of IMA’s Bergen-Rockland-Meadowlands Chapter. You can reach Jeff at jthomson@imanet.org or follow him on Twitter: @IMA_JeffThomson.
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