Not all good ideas need to die, CFO Day reveals


WEF tech pioneer Jos Dirkx unpacks how technology can help finance teams foster great ideas.

Good ideas in business may be dying, but it’s not for lack of want and dedication from the team. It’s because they don’t have access to the right tools that will allow these ideas to develop and thrive.

There are a myriad tools that will allow for the exponential growth of an idea, says founder, author and WEF tech pioneer Jos Dirkx. It’s about knowing where to find them and how to use them.

At this year’s CFO Day Jos delivered a compelling keynote about how her recent venture failed. She shared learnings from the experience that left the savvy entrepreneur and businesswoman cash-strapped.

Her app, which is available in more than 100 languages and can personalize curriculums for students across the world using WhatsApp, did not take flight because educational institutions opted for more traditional online and communications platforms.

When she reflected on where she had gone wrong, she realised that while she got a few aspects right, there were some areas that she now knows need tweaking.

The right purpose statement

Jos read, researched and went back to the basics and asked the following questions:

With the X-factor already present in her team, she decided to ask four simple questions.

  1. What do we know?
  2. How do we perceive our business?
  3. What do we need to solve?
  4. How can we connect to make this a reality?

First she had to articulate what the business was really about. She says that often we describe our business by tasks and technology and not the impact or value of the offering. While she was marketing her solution as an AI platform, Jos realised that the app’s purpose was actually education, and that technology was simply the enabler. So she had to reposition her branding.

A strong and diverse team

Even though the project did not take off, Jos had surrounded herself with team members who are still working with her. “I didn’t even have money to pay them and they still stayed,” she said.

She explained that the most important aspect that has kept her team around is the psychological safety she provides.

“If your team does not feel that they can break barriers and that there is room for error and learning, then even the best, most-qualified team members won’t be able to succeed.”

She said that when this culture is created, then the team starts building momentum and that is when ideas are created, formulated and brought to fruition.

Jos added that diverse skill sets and backgrounds are able to solve problems differently by looking at them from different perspectives. “Different skill sets from economists to social development specialists and even artists can broaden the range of insight that can be brought into a business.”

Use the wonders of AI

Her final lesson is the use of technology. “Keep your technology light and avoid heavy, cumbersome software solutions,” she says. “There are about 1,000 new AI solutions launched every week. I strongly recommend that you hire an AI specialist to review what developments are being made in the sector, but also how to use them to test different ideas and also allow for exponential growth that will help an idea soar.”

Joss, who is a former resident of South Africa, knows very well that it is a resilient nation – one that faces trials and tribulations that many in the world simply cannot grasp. This, she says, also allows for a nation that is full of diverse thinkers, multi-layers of cultural understanding and ingenuity.

For these reasons, it is the perfect country to use technology to find solutions that will make a significant contribution to not just business profitability, but that can also assist with the country’s socio-economic and infrastructure challenges.

CFO Day was made possible by principal partner Workday, executive partner BDO, and associate partners Allan GrayCaseware AfricaCircitCoupaSoluGrowth and Transparent.

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