What MacGyver taught me about innovation and lifelong learning

August 28, 2017By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation

MacGyver was my hero. I was 10 years old and feeling like a bit of an outcast. Big plastic glasses, a propensity to use new words I read in books out on the playground, and seriously confused by the other girls in my class. They talked so much at recess instead of doing anything interesting.

But MacGyver was a guy who was the hero because he was the outcast. He was the weirdo who used the things he learned from books to SAVE. THE. WORLD. He entered a situation and solved it with his brain (and whatever tools he had with him, like duct tape, which does fix everything). I didn’t have a crush on MacGyver, I wanted to BE MacGyver.

MacGyverPart of me knew I should be true to myself, with all that nerdy reading and the anti-establishment streak I had. But still, I was a “good girl” who also wanted to never get in trouble and to be accepted by all the other kids in my class. My insides were in a bit of a conflict, even in the 4th grade.

So I must say thank you to my parents, because they didn’t ask why MacGyver was so important to me, instead they just went with it. I begged for a Swiss Army Knife for Christmas that year – and they got it for me. It’s good to be validated.

I’ve since developed an aversion to explosions and would rather be home with my family than chasing after the bad guys. Recently when staff began talking about how to communicate what we’ve done on our INCPAS Innovation Task Force, someone made a joke about MacGyver and I started realizing how this silly ‘80s TV show actually did influence my life and work.

My role is Strategist for the CPA Center of Excellence® – which is a great title, but how I usually describe my job is “to do whatever needs done.” I imagine there’s one of these at every start-up organization, and this type of role has always been where I’ve thrived. While I’m absolutely not the only person who works on this project, I touch all the parts at some point.

Sure, I do quite a bit of strategy and planning for the Center, but I also do sales, work with the marketing team, post on social, shoot video, deliver content marketing, meet wonderful people and talk with them, develop partnerships, spend a lot of time in meetings, build online courses, tech troubleshoot, manage and build the website(s), product development, research, and run the table at events. As a part of the INCPAS management team, I also have responsibilities for the larger organization from time-to-time.

While I don’t carry duct tape with me, it certainly feels like I enter a lot of “duct tape situations” in this role. I put together what works with whatever resources are available at the moment, then later I get feedback from users on how to improve the product or process. Once I’ve gotten the resources we need to improve on version two, we cycle through the process all over again.

What’s the training for this sort of gig? It’s lifelong learning. It’s challenging yourself. It’s trying something even though you might fail. It’s being willing to stick it all together with duct tape for now, knowing you’ll do something better next time. It’s looking into your bag of tricks to see what you can make work.

This mindset is what I idolized every day at an age where I was trying to figure out myself in the world. And while I don’t really know how I got here, I’m glad I did. The gumption to follow your gut can pay you back tremendously.

The next time you think you “can’t” do something, or you don’t have the resources, or maybe it’s impossible, I challenge you to find what you can do. Go with your gut, escape today’s latest explosion, patch it up with the best duct tape and paperclips you have, learn more, do your research, and come back and fix it on version two.

To dig into innovation and what it means for the CPA profession, keep coming back to cpacoe.com. We’ll be featuring new thoughts on innovation for the next year, centering around the themes the Changing Role of the CPA, Talent and the Changing Workforce, Globalization and the Marketplace and Disruptive Technology and Innovation. Start here by reading why we know innovation is an important topic for CPAs. 

Can critical thinking be taught in university?

August 22, 2017By Jeffrey McGowan, CPA, CGMABlog, Critical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills, Learning and Career Development

As a college educator who spent over 30 years in the business workplace, I commonly hear discussions about how to improve recent college graduates or new staff’s critical thinking skills. A quick Google search of “Employer Critical Thinking” yields well over a millions hits on this topic. A quick survey of the results yields two certainties: 1) Many employers do not think new graduates have proper critical thinking skills, and 2) “Critical Thinking” is tough to define. Revealing articles include the following:

The third and fourth articles discuss a study in students at over 200 colleges and universities who participated in a Collegiate Learning Assessment, which evaluated critical thinking and other analytic “higher level” skills. Disturbingly, the results found that over four years of collegiate study, more than 33% of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning.” According to the Wall Street article, “at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table.”

Within the accounting world, the quest for critical thinking has filtered into the newly revised CPA exam. In its Exposure Draft: Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination, the AICPA states that “newly licensed CPAs must also possess high-order cognitive skills, including critical thinking, problem solving and analytical ability.” The Exposure Draft later states that new CPAs will require “higher order skills such as critical thinking” due to technology changing the nature of the work and that newly licensed CPAs will be “responsible for more complex tasks earlier in their careers.”

According to Michael Decker, AICPA vice-president, “Remembering and understanding fact patterns isn’t enough.” Decker adds that these new CPAs “have to be able to assess situations and apply professional judgement.” Gone are the days from my CPA youth, where as a staff auditor, we would “foot” ledgers for accuracy and seemingly spend endless hours on the copy machine. Now, CPA firms and other employer thrust new staff into a technological maze where many times the proficiency on the technology outweighs the basic accounting/tax concepts, which many times are assumed knowledge.

Thus, based on the many comments from employers desiring higher levels of critical thinking in new hires that currently college professors and employers are in a transitory period where the teaching done at the collegiate level does not clearly align with future employer expectations of how recruits should be trained, especially in critical thinking. To try to drive home the importance of critical thinking and “soft skill” development, at Trine University, last academic year, we started a program for business and engineering majors called P2 (P-squared) which stands for Professional Paradigms, where on a weekly basis, business and engineering faculty engage students in workshops that develop dealt with “soft skills” – how to network, working as a team, telephone etiquette, managing stress, etc. However, in addition to these terrific programs (in my humble opinion), as educators we need to ask more of our students in the classroom regarding critical thinking.

Before my full-time plunge into academia almost exactly one year ago, I surveyed many different professors at different colleges/universities mostly from business, but also from a few other disciplines into teaching tips and guidance. From these different meeting, I believe the number one guidance given to me was to incorporate the “Think, Pair, Share” format where students are first given a question/problem to review, we put them into a group and have them discuss, then we can call on the different groups for their answers. I enjoy trying to teach in this style, since it normally keeps discussions lively and students are willing to offer their group answers, which avoids the Ferris Bueller “Anyone?… Anyone?…” syndrome; but it rarely offers students a chance to make a mistake on their own.

In pondering on this current perceived disconnect between collegiate teachings and employer expectation on critical thinking and my own experience, I am reminded that many of the best lessons I learned were from the many mistakes that I made (and still make) throughout my career, both technical and “soft.” So then, how can we incorporate a “safe to fail” atmosphere in the classroom that is engaging and useful? I also wonder what the 50-somethings of my youth said about our generation (tail end of baby boomers) and what areas of knowledge they earnestly wished we had when entering the workplace. Honestly I cannot remember what they said about us 20-somethings back then, but now as a 50-something, I imagine the 20-somethings of today have read/heard of their supposed lack of critical thinking.

Based on the number of Google hits pertaining to critical thinking, I believe we have a long way to go in understanding what it is and training how to do it. But I would surely welcome any insight into my quandary of how to effectively teach critical thinking to our future accountants. Anyone?… Anyone?…

What We’re Reading – 8/9/2017

August 9, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on teamwork, technology, decision-making, and workplace culture. 

 

A bank robber can teach us a lot about team-building, according to this video featuring Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871.

https://www.inc.com/video/howard-tullman/the-most-important-thing-to-remember-when-youre-building-a-team.html

 

The arrival of Blockchain is inevitable. How, as CPAs, can we be ready to embrace this new innovation?

https://www.strategy-business.com/article/A-Strategists-Guide-to-Blockchain?gko=0d586&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170808&utm_campaign=resp

 

Ever wonder how successful people get from one thing to another? Here are 4 strategies successful people use in making important decisions.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40444808/how-successful-people-make-decisions-differently?utm_content=buffer254e7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

CPAs, do your workplace cultures have any of these three common, but misleading, characteristics?

https://www.accountingtoday.com/opinion/three-things-that-arent-your-firms-culture

 

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What We’re Reading – 8/2/2017

August 2, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on leadership, technology, and education. 

 

Honesty is proven to boost leadership credibility in even the most dire situations.

How Honest Apologies Can Help Leaders Bounce Back

 

Blockchain is further being touted as revolutionary force in finance. CPAs, how do you believe this technology will impact your businesses?

Building the Future of Finance with Blockchain

 

Villanova seeks to keep its students at the forefront of the accounting profession with its new Master of Accounting with Data Analytics program.

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/villanova-announces-masters-of-accounting-with-data-analytics-program

 

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What We’re Reading – 7/26/2017

July 26, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on emotional intelligence, cybersecurity, innovation, and leadership. 

 

Afraid that first impression didn’t go well? Increase your likability in your networking efforts with these 5 emotionally intelligent things to do when meeting someone new.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40441365/do-these-5-emotionally-intelligent-things-within-5-minutes-of-meeting-someone_

 

Is your company protected against these threats? It might be time to adapt to the cybersecurity realities of today:

An Insider’s View on Outside Cybersecurity Threats

 

Looking to become better at something in your life? Here is a stellar list of 44 books for self-improvement:

https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/44-favorite-books-of-high-achievers.html?cid=sf01001&sr_share=twitter

 

Stay ahead of the curve with these 8 change management models you can use to adapt and grow your business.

8 Critical Change Management Models to Evolve and Survive

 

Read the story of how two executives, new to their jobs, propelled their company forward through their leadership and teamwork:

https://www.strategy-business.com/article/Finance-and-HR-The-Executive-Partnership-That-Transformed-a-Company?gko=bcdab&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170725&utm_campaign=resp

 

 

What We’re Reading – 7/12/2017

July 12, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on networking, management, and innovation. 

 

Learn from a seasoned veteran of the business world on his vision of management: 

https://www.accountingtoday.com/opinion/the-art-and-philosophy-of-leadership-and-management

 

Do you cringe when you hear the word “networking”? For many people, networking can be intimidating and stressful. Here are six ways you can network if you don’t like talking to strangers: 

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-network-if-you-dont-like-talking-to-strangers/

 

Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, shares the challenges and opportunities he’s been faced with, as well as career advice for entrepreneurs. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/05/23/drew-houston-why-the-most-successful-entrepreneurs-solve-big-problems/#66bcdadb7acd

 

Those who came before us often can lead us the way forward. Here are some lessons from history’s greatest innovators: 

https://medium.freecodecamp.org/lessons-from-historys-great-innovators-that-you-should-never-forget-4d5e432adcde

 

What We’re Reading – 6/28/2017

June 28, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on retention, management, and development.

 

Why are some of your best employees packing their bags and leaving? These warning signs might just help you keep your most valued workers.

http://rh-us.mediaroom.com/2017-05-17-Are-Employers-Missing-Retention-Red-Flags

 

Giving an employee critical feedback is never fun. It’s part of the job, but doesn’t have to be negative. Learn how to constructively give feedback to your low-performing employees with these 4 tips:

https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/heres-how-good-managers-give-bad-employees-feedback.html

 

An increase in training programs and employee development is imminent, according to the American Insitute of CPAs. Indiana CPAs and beyond, what are you doing to develop your own employees?

http://www.cgma.org/magazine/2017/may/employee-development-and-training-201716652.html

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

What We’re Reading – 6/21/2017

June 21, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on job recruitment, technology, engagement, and innovation. 

 

Technology is constantly evolving the accounting industry. Here is a list of trends for firm leaders to keep an eye on. CPAs, how will these trends affect you and your organizations? 

http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2017/jun/technology-trends-for-accounting-firm-leaders-201716749.html

 

Do you feel appreciated and respected at work? If you have your doubts, here are three signs to look for in your company to see if they truly value you as an employee. 

http://fortune.com/2015/10/22/signs-company-values-employees/?xid=soc_socialflow_facebook_FORTUNE

 

 Read on to discover why John Graham, professor at Duke Universy’s Fuqua School, shares and addresses this issue. This primary issue faced by CFOs and companies might surprise you. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-cfos-are-feeling-1497838320

 

Innovation doesn’t always mean discovering or creating the “next big thing.” Instead, it is sometimes the smaller, lesser discoveries that really lead to a company’s success. As CPAs, how can we recognize this type of innovation? 

https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Bad-Innovation-Is-Just-What-Your-Company-Needs?gko=cc371&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170620&utm_campaign=resp

 

According to this article from Deloitt University Press, the workforce of tomorrow needs two primary things: engagement and passion. Read on to learn more about why these traits are important and how you focus on fostering them in your own organizations today.   

https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/talent/future-workforce-engagement-in-the-workplace.html?id=us:2em:3na:dup2725:awa:dup:061317&sfid=0031400002Y8aGdAAJ

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

 

What We’re Reading – 6/14/2017

June 14, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on change, employee management, and continuing professional education. 

 

Change is a constant in today’s accounting industry. CPAs, how will these four trends driving change in the industry affect you?

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/the-four-trends-driving-accounting-today?brief=00000158-6edb-da3c-af5a-ffff76ed0000

 

Learn in this interview from FEI Daily how finance executives are handling the banking revolution in speed and satisfaction of customer expectations. 

The Three Things Financial Execs Can Learn from the Banking Revolution: A Q&A With Grant Thornton’s Simon Moss, Part 1

 

Why are your employees giving you their two-week notice and leaving? This article from CGMA Magazine explains why, and offers five tips you can do to reduce employee turnover in your company. 

http://www.cgma.org/magazine/2017/jun/how-to-reduce-employee-turnover.html?linkId=38609579

 

Similar to the CPA Center of Excellence’s support of competency-based professional development for CPAs, The International Accounting Education Standards Board has proposed a revision that moves away from traditional credit-hours based learning. Learn more here: 

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/proposed-international-standard-focuses-on-learning-outcomes-for-accountants

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What We’re Reading – 6/7/2017

June 7, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on leadership and productivity. 

 

CPAs, how have you managed conflict within your company? Learn how three CEO’s displayed incredible leadership to their employees in the midst of conflict:

https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/these-3-emails-from-the-ceos-of-starbucks-microsoft-and-amazon-teach-extraordi.html?cid=sf01001&sr_share=twitter

 

“Silences creates accountability for a response.” Sometimes, the best way to let voices be heard is to silence your own:

https://www.inc.com/lee-colan/how-silence-speaks-louder-than-words.html?cid=sf01001&sr_share=twitter

 

Everyone knows the drag of long, fruitless meetings. Read on to learn the secrets to running more productive meetings. As CPAs, how have you incorporated these methods into your own meetings?

https://www.fastcompany.com/40423133/seven-ceos-secrets-for-running-more-productive-meetings?utm_content=buffer8f82b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.