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Truly creative accounting

The business world has problems with the word 'creativity'. Business wants it because the generation of ideas, and their effective implementation, sees off the competition and helps us cope with ever-accelerating change.

But – and it’s a big but – creative types can be difficult. They question constantly and push against rules and boundaries. They often relish conflict and debate, and find it difficult to be team players. They may seem to best placed on the margins of the organisation, where they can do least damage.

Business often prefers to use the word ‘innovation’, a by-product of creativity that implies a certain value. To me, innovation, rather like another abused abstract noun ‘vision’, implies some mystical process that guarantees good results and is safely removed from the messy world of people and their egos.

But being truly creative is about people and their egos. At the same time, you can’t divorce creativity from communication. While it is almost always individuals who generate ideas, we soon need others to help implement them. Truly creative accounting may involve a new take on this communication.

Many accountants prize themselves on their powers of logic and reasoning. But if you take a really significant decision – changing career or having a baby, for example – relying on weighted pros and cons doesn’t really sort it. You need to dwell on how you feel and how you imagine your future.

Similarly in business, people on the receiving end of your messages will be feeling and fantasising, as well as using logic and reasoning.

Setting targets isn’t enough to boost someone’s productivity. You need to endorse their image of themselves as someone worthy of respect. They must be enticed to work towards the good feelings of success. A strong cost-cutting message may make people feel apprehensive and believe their job is on the line, whether this is true or not.

Consciously or unconsciously, dreams and emotions will have played a part in your career choice. Incorporating these elements into your communication could turn you into a truly creative accountant.

  • Philippa Davies is the author of ‘Eureka: making brilliant ideas happen’, published this week.

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