4 ways CFOs can foster a workplace of independent innovation


While much of the responsibility for innovation efforts typically falls on information and innovation chiefs, CFOs are uniquely positioned to play their own equally critical role in their organization's transformation.

In a new article for CFO magazine, Ken Gabriel, ScD, president and CEO of MIT research and development spinout Draper Laboratory, outlined how CFOs can spearhead what he terms "disciplined innovation." This approach encourages the development of breakthrough ideas and allows for operation outside of typical business constraints, while also implementing financial limits and deadlines to create a sense of urgency and focus.

Here, according to Dr. Gabriel, are four ways CFOs can encourage this logical and highly effective form of innovation:

1. Streamline financial control and reporting: Relaxing some of the constraints and reporting requirements for shifting funds between workstreams will keep innovators from hitting roadblocks every time they need to change gears.

2. Take a new approach to talent: Keep in mind that the best person to lead an innovation project is often an outside contractor looking to share their expertise with multiple organizations on a short-term basis, rather than a traditional full-time employee.

3. Take a fresh look at contracts: Long-term, complex contracts can take months to lock in, so when it comes to fast-moving, time-sensitive innovation, a simpler short-term contract might be more beneficial overall.

4. Incubate and insulate: Encourage the constant flow of innovation within an organization by establishing internal programs that allow employees to independently pursue projects in a controlled environment.

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