Posts Tagged ‘brainstorming’

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Be More Creative

Sometimes inside accounting firms, people are not very creative. What I am referring to is that employees are taught and expected to follow checklists and firm leaders manage the firm based on what other CPA firms are doing.

Seems pretty confining, right? I don’t mean you should discard your checklists (they bring efficiency, accuracy and quality to the work you provide clients). I don’t mean you should never refer to another MAP survey. What I want you to do is encourage your people to THINK and challenge the status quo.

I was reading my March issue of FAST Company and a headline about brainstorming caught my eye. FAST Company talked to Jonah Lehrer (author of Imagine: How Creativity Works) about the types of creativity and how brainstorming doesn’t work. Some of his comments follow – be sure to read the one about brainstorming.

How Does Creativity Work? –¬†We use creativity in the singular as if there is only one way the brain creates new connections but there are probably three neurologically distinct forms of creativity. One is when you have these moments of insight that come out of the blue (when you are in the shower). Another form is really working hard at solving a problem and the third is spontaneous improvisation (what Miles Davis did).

Can a person choose which kind of creativity to use? – The type of process we should use really depends on the type of problem we’re solving. I think we have to do a better job of diagnosing where we are in the creative process and adjust our thought process accordingly. When I’m stuck, I realize now I need to let myself relax, because the answer will arrive only when I stop looking for it. (Keller comment: Hasn’t this happened to you many times when trying to solve an accounting problem?)

You say brainstorming doesn’t work. Why? – The reason is it’s main rule: Thou shalt not criticize. (Keller: We tell our people, team, committee, task force, partners at a retreat – “spit it out, no idea is too dumb, we won’t laugh or make fun of anyone, i.e., criticize.) As long as criticism is constructive, it forces people to engage on a deeper level. The problem with brainstorming is free associations are really superficial and constricted by language. Criticism is important to get past that.

At your partner retreat this year, dig deeper into a few issues rather than superficially looking at many of the firms challenges. If a good idea surfaces, attack it! Use confrontation as a tool, don’t hide from it.

In my experience, when really tough issues come up, CPA partners tend to look at their laps rather than open their mouths. Get over it and be more creative at your firm.

Read more about Jonah Lehrer: the prodigy who lights up our brain.

  • To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
  • Albert Einstein