‘Radical change for finance starts with transformation of self’, Bem Le Hunte, Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney


“The finance industry has had to re-evaluate the old offerings, legacy technology and processes – and match these against growing markets for cryptocurrencies, digital wallets and blockchain technology that make things instant, frictionless…”

It’s heartening to see how innovation is being embraced by all industries, not just as a ‘thrive or die’ imperative but as a life-enhancing exploration of possibilities. Creative thinking is spreading far past the traditional creative industries, which in turn are constantly re-inventing the value they offer. Interestingly, this innovation bug has infected even the most stubbornly resistant industries.

One of the fascinating results of adopting an innovation practice is the outcome of more meaningful work and enhanced professional growth for employees. Every type of creative practice is life-affirming, and the focus on innovation allows more individuals to push their limits, think differently, collaborate and contribute in ways they never before imagined – and surprise themselves with their inventive capacity – all to the benefit of their organisations.

Having said this, there is still an approach to innovation that appears strangely siloed in ‘innovation departments,’ which don’t touch the lives of all employees in the way they possibly should.

There is also a focus on a single methodology – perhaps sold in by a consultant – without allowing for a free exploration of an abundant ‘possibillionism’ of creative methods – something we have developed in student cohorts in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII). This may be because some of these methods – such as ‘design thinking’ have been adapted from the creative industries and repackaged as complete solution. Yet you could argue that it does its job adequately. Only a few years earlier, you would have struggled to predict that the finance industry, for example – or the big four – would ever adopt such practices.

Of course, the finance sector has had to push the accelerator on innovation as it foresaw its stable winners, such as credit cards, threatened by market entrants that continue to emerge, left-of-field. This industry has had to re-evaluate the old offerings, legacy technology and processes – and match these against growing markets for cryptocurrencies, digital wallets and blockchain technology that make instant, frictionless, international, transactions on all types of devices, a reality.

Finance – that stable building block of our society that participates in every transaction, every commercial exchange – has had to maintain stability whilst navigating rapid change. It’s had to offer ‘business as usual’ operations whilst exploring the possibilities of ‘business as unprecedented.’ And whilst embracing change, it’s had to tackle big questions around customer security in this new world, as well as money laundering, customer expectations and unlikely new fintech competitors, plus unexpected societal dynamics such as the peer 2 peer economy.

These times require some seriously big creative thinking around possible futures – thinking that is nothing if not creative. And this thinking will have to come from individuals. Creative industries know that organisations are never innovative – it’s the individuals within them that are. Yet organisations must create the enabling conditions – the environment for emergent practices, creative thinking and collaboration to take place. And the results will be transformative – not only for the business, but most significantly, for the people that drive them.

Certainly, this is what we’ve discovered as we drive change at the University of Technology Sydney. We set the enabling conditions for discovery, invention, creativity and entrepreneurship to take place, and we are always surprised at what the next generation of entrepreneurs, change-makers, game-changers and new knowledge-makers present to us – and to the organisations that support us. Universities are great places to incubate ideas and forge positive change. Our industries will be surprised at the new life our current graduates bring with them as they set out to create positive transformation in the future workplace.