Ask most accountants what they want for Christmas and the answer will almost certainly be ‘more time’. We live in a world in which change is happening at an ever faster rate. As key business players, accountants are among the last people who can just slow things down and take a break. Except, of course, at Christmas. So what is driving this accelerating pace of change? Technological progress is a favourite culprit with many pundits. It certainly is true that communication is faster and more global than ever before. That screen of new red e-mails that greets you each morning will probably contain messages from around the world. Others blame the rise of unfettered capitalism. All the old constraints (unions, public morality and powerful nation states) have been swept away by the tide of globalisation. We are left with what some American academics have dubbed ‘turbo capitalism’ which is prepared to sacrifice everything and everyone in the drive for ever lower costs and higher margins. Both arguments are true in their way. But we, as individuals, bear our own responsibility. By embracing materialism so ardently, we fuel our own need to earn more. As investors and customers we are constantly pushing companies to compete harder to please us. We define ourselves by what we buy to the point that many theologians believe we are in danger of losing sight of our true selves. Putting aside the homespun philosophising, the answer may be not to fight change after all. Many of the factors increasing the speed of change can actually be very positive, especially for accountants. With its remit to take an interest in all parts of a business, the profession is uniquely placed to champion and benefit from change. Accountants’ professional training encourages healthy scepticism, an unwillingness to take things at face value. Accountants also tend to be the people who ask the really hard questions many other managers would rather duck. These are the qualities of people who thrive in a fast-moving world. So enjoy your Christmas break. Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow certainly will be very different from today. But, hell, you know you can handle it.
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