As finance professionals, we constantly balance creativity and complexity. I’m sure many of you have stories of multiple-spreadsheet models that link through complex formulae and activity. It’s important for us to embrace complexity, and remain focused on the details of our models.
Unfortunately, “What have you done for me lately” often clouds judgment of our work. We may spend days or weeks on a project that is judged in a one-hour review meeting. Despite our best efforts to explain how we arrived at our conclusions, management will ask for more data or even require a completely different analysis.
I’ve recently read two books addressing different sides of the creative spectrum. The first is “Eat People,” by Andy Kessler. One of the book’s core rules was how growth companies effectively hide complexity from users. When a product or service “just works”, customers will be delighted and refer your company to others. The other book is Todd Henry’s “The Accidental Creative.” Henry’s main idea is, how anyone who must design or develop something is a creative professional. That definition places finance professionals in the “creative” camp and highlights the process required to produce great work.
How do these very different ideas impact our profession? Finance sits at a critical organizational junction. We are charged with researching huge quantities of data and identifying the key pieces to influence management decisions. Done right, this requires a lot of creativity. We will try a modeling technique or set of assumptions, see how the final result compares to our initial ideas, retest items, and eventually present a finished product to our customers, the management team.
Is it any wonder why I firmly believe finance professionals are basically creative people? But we often just don’t recognize that; now, we must see that just because numbers and data are our medium, it doesn’t mean that the work is devoid of creativity.
Management rightly deserves having complexity removed from their decision making, and we must always do our work with a focus on reducing complexity and confusion. Management should start balancing its information demands with an appreciation of just how creative great work in finance is.
While the final product is still important, the creative process to arrive at that product deserves greater recognition and support.