CFO South Africa innovation dinner reveals just what drives innovation

CFOs gathered in Cape Town to talk innovation with international expert Paul Steenkamp.

On 25 March, CFO South Africa, in partnership with Oracle, hosted a dinner in a private dining room at The Stack in Gardens, Cape Town with the intention of “getting CFOs uncomfortable” about innovation. 

While the aim of the content was to challenge, the setting was anything but uncomfortable, and CFO attendees were treated to fine dining and excellent wine, while sharing their excitement, frustration, successes and failures relating to new and creative implementations. 

The discussion was facilitated by highly acclaimed international innovation expert Paul Steenkamp (pictured) from the Creative Leadership Council, who highlighted key ideas from his programmes that have delivered more than R10 billion in business benefit and more than 6,000 implemented innovations since 2010.

CFOs from Curo, Peninsula Beverages, Pragma, Swift Holding Group, V&A Waterfront put forward questions such as: When is innovation actually necessary?  And do we sometimes run the risk of innovation being counter productive through “first-mover advantage”, making mistakes along the way and in the process sharing vital and sensitive information with our competitors? 

Paul suggested that budget, time and resources should be divided according to the Golden Rule of Innovation: 70 percent: existing projects run internally, enhancing and streamlining process and delivery; 20 percent: additional add-ons to existing products and services; and 10 percent: brand new products and services.

Everyone agreed that the most successful innovative teams and companies were rich in culture and diversity, and that this in fact stimulated new ways of thinking and addressing concerns and challenges. 

CFOs came away with the message that the only reason they are in business today is because their customers have challenges and concerns that their products and services address. They were reminded that greatest risk to sustainability and profitability is to become complacent and assume that today’s solutions to yesterday's problems will see their businesses into the future. If their businesses are to remain competitive and profitable, they need to solve tomorrow's challenges with tomorrow’s solutions. 

“This dinner was really informative and robust. There were several lightbulb moments over the course of the evening. One thing is for sure, diversity and scarcity drives innovation,” said John Deane, CFO community manager.