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Challenging established business and industry practices

A regular inflow of new thinking and ideas is healthy for any business (or industry) wanting to flourish, says Sam Rees-Adams, head of External Accreditation, Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment

How much do labels matter? They can be a source of comfort and give us a sense of belonging, making us recognisable to other professionals. However, it is easy to become too attached to familiar labels, particularly professional titles such as adviser, planner, wealth manager etc and there is an inherent danger in this.

Ultimately, there is something tribal about labels and if we stick with our own tribe too much, we lose the opportunity to learn from the world outside.

A recent article on police recruitment reported a growing sense of unease that new Chief Constables were increasingly being found from within the ranks of a particular force. The unease stemmed from a concern that this would result in a narrowness of thinking and a lack of fresh ideas and challenge.

Continuous improvement might be something of a buzzword, but it is a principle that is crucial for any business to flourish. Sticking within your tribe may seem like a safe option but it can be an unhelpful constraint. Imagine if you could change places with someone from a completely different industry, just for a couple of weeks – how much might that shake up your thinking?

Nobody is questioning the importance of learning from peers and colleagues who understand what you do. However, there is just as much to be gained from looking beyond the familiar labels and seeking opinions from people who have no connection to you professionally. Take their truly outside view and bring it back to challenge your established practices. Firms that recreate themselves regularly, even if nothing appears to change to the outside world, keep themselves fit and responsive.

Creating a flow of good ideas

A regular inflow of new thinking and ideas is healthy for any organisation.

In this respect, it is important to keep an open mind when recruiting staff. The workforce may be more fluid than it was in the past but we should still be wary of placing too much emphasis on experience within a specific sector or sub-sector at the expense of the wider skillset.

If recruitment is about a prosperous future for the business, we need people who have the potential to make a difference long-term, not just be able to walk in and do the job on day one because they have done the same thing before.

If your business does not recruit staff very often, you may have to take a more creative approach to bringing the outside in. Whilst you may be good at networking and have the opportunity to do it, is this true for all staff? The more people that can go out and pick up ideas to bring back to the business, the better.

Consider offering placements, from full internships to a week’s work experience. Whilst you will be helping people to experience working in financial services first-hand, you can also take the opportunity to garner their ideas and suggestions on how you could do things differently.

And who’s to say you can’t make an arrangement with another local business to swap a member of staff on a temporary basis? Whether you do it for a single day, or one day a week for an agreed period of time, the benefits to all parties could be extraordinary.

Open yourself and your business up to changing before you need to. Too many companies are slow to do this and only respond to change or challenge when it comes their way. If the first time you start thinking about adapting is because something has happened that has left you no choice, that’s far too late.

From time to time it’s good to shake off your label and break away from the tribe. It may be uncomfortable but the amazing amount of learning you will have to take back to your tribe and use for good will more than make up for that.

Look for every chance to bring in new ideas, and if you can’t find any ready-made opportunities, go out and create your own.

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