Accountants are very facts-oriented people. The common challenge is to get them to see that there’s more to their profession than just the facts and figures. Because, you really do need more than the facts. Creativity is such an integral part of business success – it’s what drives ingenuity and innovation. When creativity and facts combine, great things can happen.
It’s funny how many people count themselves out of being considered “creative.” I speak more to this in another article, which you can read here. But I reference IDEO CEO, David Kelley, speaking to this very idea: that we somehow believe that we aren’t creative, when in reality every single human being is creative – it’s in our nature.
I’ve seen this firsthand when I do a creativity workshops and ask those attending whether they think of themselves as creative, maybe one or two people will raise a hand. “You weren’t born and raised in this profession, were you?” I ask the group. “I bet you started out doing other things. You’re like me.” And they often agree. “I think I’m an Accidental Accountant™, too,” I regularly hear after my presentations. “I was a social worker before I got into this”—or some other career path that calls for people-oriented, right brain thinking. I show them ways that they can be creative.
Often their mindset is that they really do just want the facts, and they can be very introverted and reluctant to share their thoughts. That’s quite an impediment to creative thinking. Every time I’ve done a creativity workshop, whether it’s for an organization or accounting firm or as a general seminar, there’s a strange thing called laughter that happens. I see accountants having fun—while also coming up with ideas and solutions. I think they kind of amaze themselves.
In the end, a field like accounting involves a lot of numbers, yes, but those numbers represent someone’s life’s work and dreams and desires. You have to get those numbers right, and accuracy is essential, but you also need to know what those numbers stand for. Otherwise, they’re just digits in the ether. That’s what ties it all together, the fact that we’re human beings on a common journey, trying to accomplish something together. That’s why we need to let creative ideas bubble up where they will. If you keep bursting those bubbles, you lose so much opportunity.
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