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Can accountants be creative and innovative?

I was surfing the web the other day and came across a most interesting piece on making a company more creative. The article wasn’t specifically talking about accounting firms, but there are are some great tips on how any business can help promote and foster creative thinking. The article, “12 Tips to Make Your Company More Creative” was written by Ronald Brown and can be found at http://mashable.com/2011/11/08/company-creativity/

Although it seems to be on the decline, creative capacity is more important than ever. Many large companies deem creativity a major competitive advantage.

So, where do you start? What will be your strategy to bolster not only your own creativity, but also that of your business?

First, you’ll need creative employees — then, an environment that fosters and promotes that creativity. Let’s divide these categories further.

Employee Creativity

  • Hire for innate creativity. Even if a candidate’s domain skills come first (e.g. engineering, finance, marketing), stay on the lookout for creative skills – it’s easy and relatively inexpensive. Bringing people on-board with high “creativity quotients” will pay off enormously in the long-run.
  • Assess current employees. Once you identify creative types within your organization, deploy them for special projects or team leadership positions.
  • Train for creative thinking skills. It’s a structured and rich process, and everybody, regardless of inherent abilities, can improve their creativity with practice.

Personal Relationships

  • Teach marketing principles. Since business success is so much about marketing, and marketing is so much about creativity, it would be hard to imagine a more fertile ground for sharpening creative thinking skills. Advertising and design (product and graphic) tasks are also effective in getting creative juices flowing.
  • Allow for reflection time. Employees need places where they can get away from mainstream energy and potential conflicts. Creative professionals recognize solitary time as part of the “incubation” process, necessary for clarifying and polishing ideas.
  • Encourage play. Impromptu team recreation builds trust and reinforces collaboration. Make it accessible on a daily basis.
  • Mix it up. Multi-cultural and mixed gender teams tend to have higher creative output.
  • Visit customers. Ideas are most valuable when they are put in context of customer needs and circumstances. Learn from customers, allow them to suggest ideas, and be sure to share concepts, drawings and prototypes with them.
  • Encourage industry networking. Interaction with peers builds tacit knowledge.

Management Involvement

  • Define a powerful vision. Vision is the single best agent for galvanizing teams. While high performance teams need the freedom to direct their own time and efforts, management directs the process through a vision that team members can get excited about.

Physical Surroundings

  • Create big open spaces. There’s a reason design firms and ad agency offices are visually free flowing, interesting, and non-constraining: environmental clutter is distracting and stressful.
  • Create friendly spaces. Individual workspaces should put people at ease. Some prefer music. Some work well with clutter, like piles of books or papers, while others like things tidy and minimal. The goal is to meet everyone’s needs the best way possible. Bottom line, you want employees to feel good being at work.

See you next time,

James E