Even the Structured Environment of a Bank Has the Ability to Nurture a Creative Spirit

By Eveleth, G. Stimson | American Banker, July 30, 1984 | Go to article overview

Even the Structured Environment of a Bank Has the Ability to Nurture a Creative Spirit


Eveleth, G. Stimson, American Banker


Traditionally, the banking industry and, by extension, the financial services industry have been highly structured industries in terms of hierarchal and operational organization.

Clearly, the most immovable structure has existed in those areas that have had the greatest degree of fiduciary responsibility, and it has diminished as one moves toward that part of the industry that rewards on the basis of entrepreneurial performance rather than risk minimization.

Regulations governing the industry have served to reinforce its natural tendency toward conservatism and resistance to change. Even the most entrepreneurial organizations have tended to be relatively highly structured.

Nevertheless, even before the move toward deregulation forced financial institutions into accepting creativity and entrepreneurship as tools for survival, some individual institutions were able to leap ahead of the pack and bring innovation and competition to an industry not noted for rapid acceptance of change or the locked horns atmosphere of free competition.

A further deregulation takes place, either through changing regulations or by de facto occurrences in the marketplace, and as the definition of a bank becomes further blurred by a proliferation of non-traditional services, it will be necessary for financial institutions to none only encourage but reward creativity and entrepreneurship in order to survive.

A highly structured environment, necessary for financial institutions, is not one that automatically encourages creativity or entrepreneurship. On the other hand, it does not necessarily have to discourage it.

Techniques Available

There are techniques available to management, and we are talking about a management task, which will ensure that employees, at whatever level, bring imagination, enthusiasm and risk taking to their jobs without violating the requirements of prudence imposed on financial insitutions. In fact, in order for institutions to survive the dramatic change going on in our industry, it will be essential that these attributes be encouraged.

Let me examine how management in a structured environment can, in fact, encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

1. A positive atmosphere must be created to examine and test new ideas. The old suggestion box syndrome, where management asked for ideas and then chose only those that did not challenge entrenched prejudices, is no longer good enough.

The assumption needs to be that all ideas are good ideas and that the burden of proof must fall on the shoulders of those who oppose, not those who propose. …

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Even the Structured Environment of a Bank Has the Ability to Nurture a Creative Spirit
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