Accountancy may have a reputation for being all about logic, beancounting and balancing the books but, like almost any other profession, you’ll go a lot further if you develop a creative mindset and approach to your work.
‘Whenever anyone mentions creative accounting, we tend to think of being creative with numbers,’ says Paul Sloane, innovation and lateral thinking expert, and author of Lateral Thinking for Every Day. ‘But accountancy is much more than bookkeeping. A good accountant is also a change agent and a management consultant in the business.
‘That’s why the profession needs accountants who can be creative because we need to keep finding better and smarter ways to run businesses. We must deliver better services to clients and reduce costs, which means innovation in systems and processes.’
Fostering creativity is beneficial for the individual, their career and sense of job satisfaction, as well for the companies in which they work.
‘The extent to which an organisation encourages creativity is crucial for attracting and retaining talent in today’s competitive, candidate-driven market,’ says Lee Owen, director at Hays specialising in accountancy and finance.
‘While some industries require more creativity than others, all workplaces can benefit from creative-minded individuals and solutions. It enables organisations to stand out from the crowd. Employees who are encouraged to use their imaginations, put forward their bold suggestions and take ownership over their ideas and work are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their roles. Originality of thought is a great skillset to bring to any organisation that seeks to evolve its business.’
Is creativity something that can be learnt?
Again, according to Owen, you can certainly make yourself more receptive to becoming creative.
‘I think a huge part of professional creativity is the ability to be inspired by others and work collaboratively,’ he says. ‘In this way, creativity unites professionals under one common goal.
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‘Working alongside a diverse range of people and bouncing ideas off each other will give employees the confidence to flourish creatively as everyone brings something different to the table.’
Unfortunately, too many employers stifle creativity before it can even begin. This can lead to boredom and overall job dissatisfaction among employees. If this is the case, it’s important to push back.
‘Arrange a meeting with your employer where you can voice your experience and explain the benefits that your creativity will bring,’ advises Owen. ‘Have examples to hand, either on your CV or in a portfolio, to illustrate where your creative flair enhanced your work. Ask for the chance to have creative freedom over a piece of work so your employer can assess the outcome.’
Ultimately, though, if you feel your creativity is being wasted, it might be time to look elsewhere.
Five top tips for developing skills in creativity
- Challenge assumptions. This will help you to consider entirely different possibilities. Many of these will be blind alleys leading nowhere. But that is an essential component of creativity. Sooner or later, you will stumble on a route that leads somewhere good.
- Always ask if there is a better way to do something. In most cases the answer will be ‘yes’, so start looking for it.
- Become a brainstorm facilitator. Read some good books or articles on how to run brainstorm sessions and then offer to facilitate one. Learn how to separate divergent and convergent thinking sessions.
- Look outside for ideas. Study approaches used elsewhere and copy the best ideas. What do they do in other sectors and industries? What do they do in your sector, but in Singapore, Japan or the Netherlands?
- Mix with a diverse group of people. Have lunch with people who work in other departments or businesses, or just with people you don’t know well, and ask them about their issues and challenges. And, if you get the chance, mix with business leaders. It will help you see the big picture.
Source: Paul Sloane, innovation and lateral thinking expert
This article was first published in Student Accountant in April 2023 | Get the SA app now