Almost all departments within all companies have an untapped 'cognitive surplus'. A 'cognitive surplus' is the difference between the specific tasks an employee is assigned to do and what they actually are capable of doing - the actual versus the potential work.
It seems obvious, but to tap into it the 'Cognitive Surplus' can make a huge difference.
Companies such as 3M, Dell and Google have all implemented what is called '20% time' or 'innovation time' - one day of their working week, dedicated to whatever projects they like... provided it benefits the company in some way.
Does it pay off?
One might wonder: Does it pay off? Well, at Google this has resulted in successful projects such as Gmail, Google News and AdSense, and according to ex-employee, Marissa Mayer, as many as half of Google innovations are a result of '20% time'.
But, while this approach might be considered something market leaders can utilise, many finance departments perceive they barely have the time to complete all the necessary work at present, never mind crafting new and innovative ideas, supporting procedures that aid business growth.
Yet finance departments really do need this 'innovation time'.
In this slow and sometimes contracting economy, the next two years will be critical for businesses. It will fall largely on finance departments to walk the thin line between productive spending and managing a dwindling pool of resources. Additionally, with a host of new financial regulations coming into place in this two-year period, financial departments will be instrumental in helping businesses to remain compliant without losing their current standing.
This extra pressure and workload will make it difficult for finance to inspire new talent whilst holding on to the employees they already have. Finance professionals require stimulating challenges without being overloaded with extra work - they need '20% time' to effectively tap-in to their expertise, and not have their time consumed by lengthy, repetitive tasks - that can be automated.
How to make time for tapping into 'Cognitive Surplus' in the finance department
One way in which businesses can help free up some of their finance department's time to complete tasks, is by automating the tedious and time-consuming tasks that turn prospective talent off finance work. Reconciliation is one such set of tasks that finance professionals find particularly tiresome and time consuming. Fortunately it is now possible to automate account reconciliation, processing hundreds of thousands of transactions in just minutes rather than hours or potentially days.
While significantly reducing reconciliation errors, automation also frees up large chunks of time that could be dedicated to maintaining compliance, providing strategic insight in this tough economy.