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A Foray Into the Right Brain: Thoughts on Tom Kelley's the Art of Innovation

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A Foray into the Right Brain:
Thoughts on Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation

“An accountant? Creative? I don’t think so.” That was a comment I made to a group of colleagues about twenty-five years ago when I was working with an international CPA firm. I can’t recall many specific conversations from so long ago, but I do remember this one. I think it stuck in my mind because the managing partner of my office overhead my comment and interrupted the conversation. He responded that he had seen plenty of instances in my work that demonstrated my creativity and he thought I was quite creative.
That conversation was before the October 2001 Enron fiasco and at that time, accountants serving “sophisticated” clients were expected to sometimes be creative in their accounting practices. Not to say that I ever witnessed any “creativity” such as that shown at Enron. If, however, if a client wanted to record a transaction a certain way, for example, a good CPA would do his best to find a way to support his client’s accounting. A great CPA was nearly always successful.
Since then, I have left public accounting (pre-Enron, not as a result) and have been on the client side for the last twenty or so years. I’ve witnessed that most people in business do not appear to be creative and, in fact, many seem to be stuck thinking “that’s just the way we do it.” Most companies have a couple of people who do most of the creative thinking and the rest of the people just react…or resist. Over time, I have found it difficult not to slip into that mindset. It is certainly the easiest path to follow. It has the least resistance and is a fairly safe way of doing things. You’re not likely to screw anything up if you simply follow the standard way of doing things. An employee might not be faulted for not coming up with new, creative ideas, but may be criticized or even fired if he…...

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