#9: Innovate

January 14, 2017By Gary Bolinger, CAEBlog, Future of Work and Change Management, Innovation

Relish change and embrace the opportunity

I am sure that many, or most of you reading this, have heard the famous Jack Welch quote “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Well, that isn’t the exact quote. Actually, the concept was published in the GE’s Annual Report 2000 in the section on “Relishing Change.”

“We’ve long believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.”

Change is difficult. Change is frequently a source of significant discomfort. Change is complex. And today, the rate of change — the velocity of change — is accelerating. Much of the increasing velocity of change is attributed to technology. But there are other factors. Increased entrepreneurship is driving change. Ever evolving demographics drives change. And geopolitical influences on our global economy certainly drives change.

All of these influences on change (and more) are driving a mandate. We must learn to embrace change. Or, as the GE annual report said in 2000, we must relish change. We need to encourage our colleagues to view change as opportunity. There’s really no alternative. Change must be embedded in our cultures. Change needs to be positioned as the energy to create the new.

When you, your organization and /or everyone within your organization gets over the feelings that fuel the discomfort of change, you can move on to framing change as a primary source of innovation.

Innovation is probably the primary driver of growth in our businesses today. The engine driving positive economic improvement. Innovation = future success.

But, innovation is scary too! What? You expect me to innovate? I don’t know HOW!

Innovation should NOT be unsettling to you or your colleagues. Wikipedia defines innovation as a “new idea, device, or method.” Sure, there is a little more to the definition. Solutions that meet new requirements, more effective processes or something that breaks into a new market. In 2016 the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) Board of Directors established an innovation task force and they elected to use a definition of innovation crafted by Dan McClure: “Any practice that leverages creative invention to respond to an important challenge.” There are others. Pick one that fits you best and embrace it!

Innovation is process improvement. It might be a series of little things (marginal gains) that eventually make a big difference. Everyone in your organization can and should be challenged to find one or two little things that could be improved. Everyone should embrace the opportunity!

You will hear more in the near and long-term future from the CPA Center of Excellence®, powered by INCPAS, about innovation. We hope to hear from you as well. As we embrace change and implement thoughtful and purposeful innovation, we can all help to ensure a valuable and relevant future for the CPA profession. Let us know how you are innovating in your career.

Gary Bolinger, CAE, is president & CEO of the Indiana CPA Society, a position he has held since 1991. He has spent the last 32 years of his career at INCPAS, beginning in 1984 with the role of field activities director. Bolinger has served in numerous volunteer and presenter capacities in both the CPA and association professions nationally and in Indiana. He was named as one the most influential people in accounting by Accounting Today for each of the last two years. Bolinger is a regular blogger for the Society. 

It’s Not a Secret

November 13, 2016By Jennifer Briggs, CAEBlog, Innovation

The difference between most successful people and others is not a secret. They do things. That’s right. They. Do. Things.

Before they are ready, when they don’t know if they should, when other people aren’t sure it’s a good idea, when it hasn’t already been proven, or even when they are scared. This is what I tell my kids and what I tell the people I work with.

Can this be dangerous advice? Yes. But, too many times in my life I have seen people become experts in a field or achieve something remarkable by jumping in and doing. Not talking about doing. But actually doing it. (No, this isn’t a sly ad for Nike, but they were on to something with that Just Do It campaign.)

In October at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., the Indiana CPA Society received one of the highest honors in the association world, an American Society of Association Executives Power of A Summit Award for our CPA Center of Excellence®, praising it for its ingenuity, collaboration and focus on the future. This great video that ASAE produced and showed at the event does a nice job of telling our story.

We received the award because of the work we’ve done in trying to transform the education model for CPAs and other professionals. We had no idea what we were doing when we started on this journey back in 2010. We held focus groups and changed paths as we went along. We recruited volunteers and asked them to do very hard work. We questioned our own motives, actions, strategies and common sense all while continuing to DO.

Foolish? Maybe. Incredibly frustrating? You bet. Exciting? Definitely. If I could go back and do some things differently I would, but in hindsight aren’t we all a little bit more genius? I’m glad we pushed through. The CPA Center of Excellence® wants to change how we talk about learning and competency, where we put our priorities (on learning, not on time sitting in a seat) and, most importantly for me, the CPA Center of Excellence® is focused on the needs of individual people. What they need to learn and how we can make that easier and better. The vital skills we started with – Leadership, Networking, Decision-making, Communications, Critical Thinking and Entrepreneurship – do not have to be hard wired in to someone for them to become accomplished.

As a rule, organizations seek out those who are naturally gifted in these areas and ignore these needs in everyone else. This leaves so much potential on the table. Will everyone in your organization become a master communicator or strategist? Probably not, but can some people, when given a chance to focus outside of the technical aspects of their job, improve and adapt and ask better questions? Undeniably, the answer is yes. When we don’t give people as many opportunities as we can to DO, we suffer the consequences in a lack of needed skills, in competitive “talent wars,” and in an absence of innovation.

We know there’s much more for us to accomplish, we know some aren’t thrilled about our experimentation, and frankly we aren’t attracting the volume of participation we want. But what we have achieved so far is remarkable as is what we’ve learned. It’s the kind of learning that lasts, the learning that comes from doing.

We look forward to what’s ahead and we thank ASAE, the Power of A Summit Awards Steering Committee, our Board of Directors, the CPA Center of Excellence® Board of Directors, our volunteers, and our outstanding staff.

CPAs Want More Online Learning and Non-Technical Skills Training

February 18, 2016By Dave ShatkowskiInnovation, Learning and Career Development

The CPA Center of Excellence® recently conducted a survey of nearly 700 Indiana CPAs to gauge their learning preferences and the skills they need to enhance. The results further validate the growing need for online, interactive competency-based learning, soft skills assessment and development, and collaboration — the foundation on which the CPA Center of Excellence® was established in 2014.

“The survey results confirm what we’ve known to be true for some time now,” said Indiana CPA Society President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE. “First, that mastery of non-technical skills is critical for current and future CPAs. Second, the current hours-based system of education is outdated and not meeting CPAs’ needs. And third, CPAs want options for professional development and need help mapping out those plans.”

First, that mastery of non-technical skills is critical for current and future CPAs. Second, the current hours-based system of education is outdated and not meeting CPAs’ needs. And third, CPAs want options for professional development and need help mapping out those plans.

Most-desired personal skills
In terms of specific skills necessary to them personally, communication was first at 23 percent, with critical thinking second at 19 percent, problem-solving third at 18 percent, leadership fourth at 17 percent and analytical fifth at 16 percent. Among new hires, the skills most lacking were critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, analytical and leadership.

How employers handle soft skills
A related question asked how the CPA’s employer addressed the need to develop non-technical (soft) skills. Nearly 45 percent indicated their employer believes this education should be included within their continuing professional education requirements, while another 20 percent offer to pay for this training in addition to other continuing professional education. At the present time, CPAs in Indiana are required to obtain 120 hours of training every three years.

Professional development plans
Three other questions dealt with professional development plans. More than 62 percent said they do not currently have a plan, and nearly 65 percent would like resources to help develop one. Of those that do have a plan, only 44 percent said that their skills development is assessed.

Training needs
In terms of specific types of training, 75 percent of respondents said they need technical accounting, auditing and tax education as expected. But more than 40 percent (respondents could choose multiple types of education) said they also needed non-technical education such as leadership, critical thinking and communications training. And 13 percent indicated that they needed ethics training as well.

Competency-based learning
More than 35 percent of respondents agreed a shift to competency-based education for CPAs is needed, while only 16 percent disagreed. Nearly 50 percent said more information was needed to form an opinion. The Indiana CPA Society and the CPA Center of Excellence® have been leaders in the movement toward a competency-based continuing professional education system for CPAs. A competency-based approach simply means that competency must be demonstrated in order for a participant to advance through or complete a course.

“I like to learn at my own pace. When doing online learning, I am required to focus and learn. In a class setting, it is easier to just be physically present and not get much out of the class.”

Classroom and device training preferences
Classroom training was the top choice among CPAs for a learning environment; however, nearly 30 percent said they are most successful in online webinars while over 20 percent said they are successful in online self-study. These online education percentages are believed to be higher than in prior years. As far as devices used for online education, the laptop was used most, followed by a desktop, tablet and smartphone.

Most effective group sizes
Two questions addressed learning group size. Larger groups were the preference for both classroom and online learning. In a classroom environment, 93 percent preferred class sizes of 10 or more. In an online environment, 81 percent preferred groups of at least that size as well.

Formal vs. informal settings
When asked simply about their preferences between formal and informal settings for learning, nearly 64 percent of respondents preferred informal settings. And in terms of learning formats, an interactive format was the top vote-getter, followed by lecture and experiential.

“Formal is too restricted. There are often good ideas by the participants in classroom CPE, and they can offer valuable insight at times. A combination of lecture and interactive is best,” said one survey respondent. Another commented, “Informal settings usually allow for more participation and knowledge sharing of participants.”

A third respondent provided a perspective that contrasts competency-based learning with the current hours-based model: “I like to learn at my own pace. When doing online learning, I am required to focus and learn. In a class setting, it is easier to just be physically present and not get much out of the class.”

 

Three Tactical Steps to Destroy Information Overload and Become Infomagical

February 16, 2016By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Innovation

Learn for me. Not for them.

This is my new information mantra. It’s what I declared after cutting my feelings of burnout in half and learning how to learn despite a busy schedule and daily distractions.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you how to in three steps. 

This sounds clickbait-y, but it’s true. What better skill to have today than the ability to combat your own information overload? How many hours do you lose from constant notifications, emails, headlines and the stress of feeling like we can’t keep up with it all? In order to be excellent public service providers, with the ability to synthesize all of the data that is available into true insights, I would argue CPAs and others involved in this data and knowledge-based economy need to build the essential skills of skewering information overwhelm by creating a personal system and mantra of focus and attention to serve their clients and organizations.

I was lucky enough to have my five-day journey spurred on by a great podcast — WYNC’s Note to Self by Manoush Zomorodi.

Note to Self is a lively and self-aware podcast about our real lives with tech. Things I’ve learned from the podcast so far include: the reason Two Dots is so addictive, how to get organized using principles of neuroscience, and how to cut photo clutter. Then they launched the Infomagical project.

For a week, Manoush (purposely using her first name, because that’s how close I feel we are after this experience) and her team prompted listeners with information overload reduction tasks, with the purpose of achieving one of five goals of your choice. For my quest, I chose to learn more about a certain subject over the week. As a lifelong learning addict, I never feel like I have enough time to learn everything I want to, so I thought it would be telling if I saw results.
And the crazy thing is, I really did.

The tasks for the week weren’t huge commitments, but they challenged me to think about how much control I could have over my time if I didn’t sacrifice it to distraction and the internet. Monday I tried to single task (#jessfail). Tuesday I was told to clear the clutter from my phone and computer desktop. Then there was avoiding a meme or trend all day, having a seven-minute long conversation on one topic, and lastly, creating your personal mantra.

How did this play out in real life? Essentially, I was teaching myself that whenever I wanted to be entertained by my phone, I would use that time to learn about my topic. I was also structuring my environment to encourage myself to focus on the task at hand (because structuring your environment is 80 percent of the battle). I was connecting with people more. And, if any of these tactics failed, I had my mantra to remind myself why I love information and technology in the first place — to learn what I want to learn, not read whatever someone else is pushing. Let’s face it, the internet can be a drug.  

After five days, I’m a believer. I’ve cleared a learning hurdle in my quest — not knowing where to start. After revisiting my focus every day, the consistency made what I needed to learn clear. I’m now closer to doing that.

This is the same strategy we all need to employ at work to synthesize intelligence and data into insight. Without that level of depth and focus, it’s hard to reach any level close to qualifying as insight.

I’ve boiled down my experience into the three main tactics for destroying information overload. They are:

  1. Strategically eliminate distractions from your environment.
    Think about what distracts you and create a plan that allows you to avoid stimuli until you have time for it. Our human nature is programmed to react to the most stimulating experiences, and you never know what’s behind that next notification bubble, right? What if it’s important?! Remove your notification bubbles from your apps, hide the apps that cause you problems, reduce clutter in general and keep tabs to a minimum and your email closed when you really need to focus. It takes 23 minutes to refocus after becoming distracted. Give yourself the gift of uninterrupted blocks of time when you have an important project or deadline, and let your coworkers know you are doing it and when you’ll next be available. Maybe they will follow your example.
  2. Use your intermittent time.
    The number one thing I learned in this experience? I actually DO have the time I need, if I use it properly. You would be amazed how much time you can find redirecting energy from when you would usually be checking Facebook or Instagram or reading the latest headlines. Instead, use that time you are already standing around looking at your phone to do tasks that require short bursts of attention, like answering emails, reading that one article you really need to, or making the quick phone call to catch up. I heard a great interview on the Harvard Business Review’s Ideacast podcast with Neil deGrasse Tyson where he’s asked, essentially, how do you do it all? He talks about using all of that intermittent time. Does this mean you can never have fun again? No, but have fun doing something fun when it’s time. Listen to audio books or podcasts on your drive to work. Read an actual book on the bus or the train. Using my intermittent time, I feel less stressed because I know I’m on top of everything, and when it’s time to relax I can actually relax.
  3. Create your mantra.
    We are all human. Sometimes humans are weak. Create a mantra for yourself to chant when you are more prone to distraction (usually when we are tired or overwhelmed). It’s ok if we need to trick ourselves to focus. Too much of today’s stimuli is designed to work towards our baser desires and away from our best interests.

Give yourself the gift being less overwhelmed. You’re not imagining it — the amount of information we consume, and more so the way we consume, is different than ever before. Take back your data consumption, and use these strategies to help you create true insights in your life and work. Use the knowledge for your goals. What’s your mantra?

Note to Self  is continuing to run it’s Infomagical project for as long as there is demand. You can sign up online and start next week. Have fun!

Your staff has no value. Unless …

February 2, 2016By Gary Bolinger, CAEBlog, Innovation

That’s right, your staff has no value.  Unless …

You know this to be true.  It has been true for decades.  And seasoned professionals talk about it just about all the time.  But, it seems more important today than ever.  More important because of the complex world that we are all operating in.  Because of challenges that are unique to the time we live in.  Maybe it’s because of this VUCA world we all try to make sense of.  You know VUCA … a “buzz acronym” in my judgment.  But the reality is that we are facing unprecedented complexity and volatility.

So … unless what?

Unless they (and you) have a strong command of the “core competencies.”  You know, those vital skills that all CPAs should have.  Yes, the “soft skills.”  Actually, I hate that label.  Soft skills.  Are you kidding me?  Soft?  I wrote a blog about it some time ago (March 2013): Why Are the Soft Skills So Hard?

A couple years later (last November), another blog appeared on SmartBlog on Leadership: Let’s face it. Soft skills are hard .  Very similar message and an admonition “It’s time that we face it. ‘Soft’ skills can’t be learned in a once-a-year breakout session. They deserve attention, investment, energy, and focus repeatedly and over time.”

Here is the deal.  No one cares how good your command of technical skills is unless …

  • you have outstanding communication skills, and …
  • your leadership skills combined with those communication skills allow you and your colleagues to collaborate in the most effective manner, and …
  • you and your staff possess the best critical thinking and analytical skills in order to make the most reasonable and effective decisions.

So, you see, without the “soft skills,” you have no value.

Another recent blog entitled CFOs-In-Waiting: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There perhaps says it best. “The ability to crank through financial statements and reporting are table stakes.”

So make sure that you and your entire professional staff INVEST in tools, engage in learning and commit to development of those vital skills – core competencies – to ensure that you have value and maintain relevance to clients, employers and colleagues.

Do you really listen? Really?

December 24, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Critical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills, Innovation

It always seems that the best answers are the simplest ones, even if a simple concept can be hard to achieve in practice.

Case in point: Communication skills. We talk a lot about communication skills when we talk about CPA core competencies, as communication is at the root of what a CPA does. Communicating with clients as public accountant, communicating with internal stakeholders as a CPA within an organization, communicating in writing and in person — it’s at the core of the many actions you take throughout the day.

As we’re all busy this time of year, I wanted to give you the gift of time and tell you I can sum up communication skills with one word: listening.

Simple idea? Yes. Simple to pull off? Eh… You tell me. When was the last time you had a conversation in which you felt you were truly listening or being listened to? When was the last time you talked with someone when she didn’t look at her phone at all during your conversation? When was the last time someone looked you in the eye, instead of just waiting for their next opportunity to speak?

I have a friend who is a wonderful listener. She is so good at it, when I first got to know her it was a little alarming. I’m used to having to teach myself to butt into a group conversation get my ideas heard, being a bit of an introvert. When I enter an important conversation with someone louder, older or with more experience than me, my adrenaline spikes so I’m ready to find a way to jump into those conversations. And when I met my friend Cassie, I almost had to teach myself to become accustomed to her peacefulness and ability to listen without trying to tell me what she thinks I should do in a situation or without immediately rebutting my comments. So just from personal experience talking with Cassie I’d like to point out: When someone truly listens to you, YOU FEEL AMAZING. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here as is so in vogue. Being listened to with someone’s full attention makes a person feel warm, secure, valuable, and probably even smarter and more attractive. Don’t you wish you could make all of your clients or coworkers feel like that? Or at least the ones you like?

While listening is an essential concept, we know that we could all use a little practice. It’s not a fault to you (or me) — it’s hard to really focus on someone else’s words when we have that buzzer of a smartphone hanging around making us worry that we’re missing something important. It can be difficult to make someone feel listened to when in this world of immediacy and information overload we can’t remember the last time we focused for an hour on one thing. We’re out of practice. It’s ok. Me too.

I’d like to challenge you, and myself, to start today with listening. For a wee bit of inspiration check out William Ury’s TED talk on listening. For my part, I’m just going to work on being a little bit more like Cassie this year and see where it takes me.

Learn outside your comfort zone

December 22, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation, Learning and Career Development

When was the last time you learned something exciting?

I know mine. It was last week when I read an article about quantum computing. I’m not a physics or math or computer science devotee, but the idea that just by changing how we structure the way a computer processes information, it may be capable of computations we can’t yet imagine — now that’s fantastic idea. I even tried to relate it to accounting in my last blog so I could write about it (not sure I succeeded).

Quantum computing is not directly related to my work or my life (that I know of, ha) but that thread of a thought made me start thinking just a little differently. If quantum computing is possible — what else is possible? Is it possible that problems I’ve been trying to solve but haven’t yet, well maybe I just haven’t been processing the information in the best way? Maybe if I could turn my brain’s series of ones and zeroes into something multidimensional… Now that’s a different way of thinking.

When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something outside of your comfort zone? I usually start my blog brainstorming process by scanning my accounting, business and local news emails, then going through blogs I follow, or folks I’m connected with on LinkedIn or Twitter — and it’s easy to see a lot of us are talking about the same things. If I see one more LinkedIn update that’s a repost of an HBR article (jk! I just did that, too). With all the talk of disruption and innovation in the business world (which really is it’s own sameness cycle), how can anyone be truly innovative if we are all talking about the same ideas?

Your best idea may come from somewhere you’ve never expected — but if you’re not out there listening, reading and learning in new areas, you might miss it. 

In honor of it being a great time of year to promise to yourself that you’re going to do new things, here are a few of my favorite places to learn things that might be utterly unrelated to anything else I’m doing:

Longreads.com and Longform the app:
Longreads.com and Longform the app are two spots that compile the best longform writing of the day — from New Yorker essays to the AV Club’s year end lists to stories from independent websites, you can read about anything here. Let them scan the internet for you so you can spend more time reading and less time browsing different websites.

Wired
A magazine and website, Wired is the home for breaking tech news — and really since tech touches all aspects of life nowadays this means so many things. You’ve probably heard of Wired already, but it’s still great. Just saying.

CodeSchool 
This one’s a bit of a cheat for me as far as learning something different: I’ve wanted to learn to code for a while now, but I’m just now committing to it. CodeSchool has you watch videos for courses and actually do exercises to practice your coding skills on the website. There are learning pathways that show you what you need to know for front end web development, Ruby, iOS and more. If you want other options, you can also try TreeHouse or CodeAcademy — there’s a lot of options out there.

Take an online course in, well, anything:
CourseraKhan AcademySkillshareUdemyedX: there are many many websites now where you can learn anything from personal finance to video production to basic psychology to nutrition to guitar — anything you can think of. Pick something that sounds interesting.

Let’s commit to doing one thing well this year: learning something we never expected to.

#Nowtrending – Three big ideas to watch

December 17, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation
Forward-thinking Indiana CPAs are meeting at the INCPAS first ever Trends Conference today, learning about technology, culture, regulation and business trends that will impact them in the near and far future. In honor of this spirit of preparedness, I’m offering three big ideas to watch:

Quantum Computing
We know what Excel and other accounting software did to change accounting. More and more technology and accounting experts are speculating about how future developments in technology will automate the technical work of accounting. NASA just announced it’s first quantum computer from D-Wave Systems is working. This is how D-Wave describes quantum computing:

“Rather than store information as 0s or 1s as conventional computers do, a quantum computer uses qubits – which can be a 1 or a 0 or both at the same time. This “quantum superposition”, along with the quantum effects of entanglement and quantum tunnelling, enable quantum computers to consider and manipulate all combinations of bits simultaneously, making quantum computation powerful and fast.”

While accounting is not the first target business for quantum computing (hence, NASA), Cornell University has a paper on the subject dating back to 2007.

What’s the point? Future computers will be capable of information processing at a speed and an ability that most people (including myself) can’t even explain today: how quickly will the technical aspects of accounting be taken over by computers (whether through quantum computing or something else)?

We Communicate All the Time/We Have No Idea How to Communicate

We at the CPA Center of Excellence® are dedicated to advancing core business skills for CPAs like leadership, critical thinking and communication skills. Focusing here on communication skills — we have more technology-led ways to communicate with anyone in the world that weren’t available even 10 years ago — yet, are we getting better at communicating? This idea I have to credit to a friend who works with young people, who has said she’s noticed in-person communication skills declining among students even over the past five years, and attributes this to the fact they don’t get much practice talking to each other with the constant presence of their phones. Communicating online is a completely different skill from communicating in person, and we know that speaking face-to-face is one of the most important skills when trying to solve a problem, land a new client, or support your employees. A major challenge of the near future may be how should we approach teaching and encouraging communication skills in our future workforce — because they need it (as does a lot of our current workforce).

Empathy

If you can understand your clients, you can help them. If you can see a problem from your coworker’s point of view, it’s easier to work together to solve it. If you can then see what’s going on in this complex, quickly changing world, and think about how new events and trends might affect your organization, clients and competitors, you will be ahead of the curve. While it might seem like a non-traditional business value, I truly believe that whomever can empathize the best is ahead of the game.

What trends do you think will most impact us in 2016?

Baby it’s cold outside, or how to meet people without leaving your warm office

December 10, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Collaboration, Innovation

It’s that time of year again – I’m typing in fingerless gloves and an extra sweater. In honor of it being the season to hibernate, I’d like to suggest you fight off pending loneliness by discovering some unsung features on the CPA Center of Excellence® online community, only for INCPAS members.

Here’s a few tips to get you collaborating and meeting other CPAs from the comfort of your chair, and a video tour to show you where to find these features.

All INCPAS members can use their INCPAS login and password to access the online community.

You see the daily digest emails from the open forum each morning, but did you know you can respond to any of those posts, or send a private message directly from that email?  Just click “reply to group” to contribute to the discussion or “reply to sender” to send a private message at the top of the post. If you’d like to see the entire discussion online, click the “reply to group online” or “view thread” links.

Think you get too many or too few emails from the open forum? Scroll to the bottom of any open forum email and click “My Subscriptions” to change your email preferences.

Need to find a CPA with expertise other than your own to help with a particularly tricky question? Navigate to the “Find a Member” tab, choose “Advanced Search” and seek out other CPAs based on a range of criteria, including where they are located and what they specialize in. There are a list of topics to select from on this page, such as business valuation or not-for-profit.

Have a question for Indiana CPA Society staff? We are all on the online community as well, and if you search “Indiana CPA Society” under the find a member tab, you’ll see a staff directory, with direct links to send private messages or email us. You can also always post a question to the open forum, which we will make sure to respond to.

Want to share a document you think would be helpful for other INCPAS members and have it hosted to the online library for all to see? Simply post a new discussion and add your file as an attachment, and it will be added to the library automatically. Or, you could use the “Explore” tab and select “Library Entries” to see what is already out there and add your own.

Harboring a burning desire to start your own blog, but don’t want to worry about software and hosting fees? INCPAS members can write their own blog on the online community, but choose to mark each post as “Public” and share it with the world. Navigate to “Participate” and “Post to Your Blog.” You can choose if you only want members to read it, or if you want to make it accessible to the wider web by selecting “Who can read your blog entry?” after composing your post. You can add images, links, and format the text of your entry just like any other blogging platform.

Attend an INCPAS conference or PIU and forget to grab someone’s business card? Each conference and PIU has it’s own online community, where you can see everyone who attended, download the slides, and start a discussion within that smaller group.

Just want to share the love? A yet much unused feature, the online community allows you to “recommend” posts you think deserve more reads (see the white “Recommend” button on the top right of each post). And as always, if you see a great conversation happening, jump in there and start posting. There are interesting discussions happening each week, and if you happen to have a more comfortable pace at work this December, it’s the perfect opportunity to get on the online community and see what you’ve been missing.

The opportunities are out there waiting for you. And luckily, you won’t have to bundle up and go out into the cold to collaborate and communicate with those most in the know about your questions and needs as a CPA – other Indiana CPAs.

Born creative? No. Way.

December 1, 2015By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Innovation
Innovation. Disruption. So many of today’s business thought icons revolve around the idea of doing something more creatively – but what does that mean?

For those  in a business mindset (or perhaps, those who are used to accounting, where  linear, practical thought and following regulations is a necessity) the idea that we now all have to be creative might seem like a rather wide river to cross. For example, “creative accounting” is not a good thing. But being creative in how you attract new talent, create new services for your clients, and build a culture within your organization is a great thing. In today’s competitive world, distinguishing yourself with a creative idea starts to feel like a necessity as well.

So what’s a linear-minded, would-be creative thinker to do?

With a liberal arts degree and a job history in design, photography and writing, plus a music background, you might assume that creativity comes naturally to me and others of my ilk. In truth, I’m an extremely practical person who loves to be productive and the thrill of crossing a task off a list. (Really.) My nature is to value hard work, efficiency and getting things done – traits I also love in a lot of CPAs I meet.

Lately, as CPA Center of Excellence® strategist, I’ve been doing a lot of research to plan for the next year. While I know it’s essential and I enjoy it, I feel slightly unfulfilled when I get to the end of the day and don’t have a long list of checkmarks.

Then I read this article at HBR.org by Art Markman – To Get More Creative, Become Less Productive – and it validated what I already know but still sometimes have trouble putting into practice: being creative requires allowing space for the ideas to come and the time to research seemingly unrelated topics.

My favorite quote from the article is this:

“Moreover, creative enterprises rarely involve steady and measurable progress. Instead, being creative involves trying lots of different possibilities, struggling down several blind alleys before finding the right solution.

But these activities — building up a knowledge base and exploring it — take time. It is hard to simply schedule a few hours here and there to engage in creative pursuits. Instead, there are times when it’s necessary to spend hours learning about a new area of knowledge, or to have a rambling conversation with a colleague to pull the thread of a new idea. And so a lot of creative activity may look suspiciously like loafing around until the breakthrough comes.”

So here’s the point: you aren’t born creative. But also, you can’t learn to be creative, in a typical sense. You’re not going to read a book on creativity and suddenly be zapped with 100 new, fabulous ideas. Instead of being something you’re born with, or something you learn a skill to do, creativity is something you need to allow yourself to do.

Give yourself permission to do that seemingly unrelated reading. Write all the ideas down on your brainstorm list – even the silly ones. Have that long rambling conversation. Take a walk when you get stalled and allow yourself to daydream. Sit there and stare into space for a while. Don’t panic if you don’t check off every task on your list today. We can all do this – even us linear thinkers.