When I talk about creativity in your accounting firm, I do not mean creative accounting in the sense of cooking the books. If that’s what you’re expecting from this blog, please leave. (Yeah, I know that’s not what you thought – then you wouldn’t be here in the first place!)
Instead, I’m talking about creative thinking.
Let me explain.
If you want your firm to be successful, you need to have an entrepreneurial mindset. If you’re going to be entrepreneurial, you need to be able to think creatively about the challenges that you’re facing in your business and your marketing, and find solutions that are often far from mainstream beliefs.
Guidelines That Can Lead to More Creativity
Okay, so how do you cultivate creativity? It’s much easier than you may think. You don’t need to be able to hold a tune like Queen, bring ordinary scenes to life like Vincent van Gogh, or capture the imagination like JRR Tolkien.
Nope. If you can daydream, you have what it takes to think creatively.
Let’s look at a few important guidelines that you need to understand before you even try to get the creative juices flowing.
- First, you need to let go of perfectionism. Creativity thrives in an environment where you allow yourself to make mistakes. In fact, you SHOULD make mistakes. When you do, you learn what doesn’t work so that you don’t repeat those mistake. But the real beauty of making mistakes is that you start to see things differently. You begin to see patterns and solutions beyond the scope of your previous thoughts.
- Secondly, forget everything you think you know. If you’re trying to find a solution that has been elusive until now, it means that you don’t actually have the answer yet. Obvious, right? But still, we are often too afraid to move away from what we think we know is right. Maybe you believe something that you’ve learned at school, that is generally believed by society, or that your mentor or idol said. If you’ve tried it, and it didn’t work, then it’s not the right answer. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, it’s just not the right answer for your situation, now. Let me give you an example. At one point, cloud accounting was unheard of. Hell, even I, when I first heard about it, thought that it’s a nice concept, but not practical. Today, the question is not whether cloud accounting is a solution for small businesses; it’s just our preferences of programs that differ.
- Finally, don’t force creativity. If you try to get to an answer in the next 30 minutes – come hell or high water – then you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, and you’ll actually suppress your creativity. When I’m stressed and on a deadline, I can beg my creative side to come forward, but it will all be in vain. When we’re under stress, the analytical side of our brains takes over – which is good for getting a task done quickly, but not for fostering creativity. Our creative side needs space and time to cultivate. I have many examples (that I’m not proud of and will therefore not share with you here) of mistakes I’ve made because I wanted an answer, NOW. And looking back later, I would always think “if only I did this instead.”
How to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
Okay, so let’s talk about some of the steps that you can take to create a space for creative light bulbs to go on:
- Go for a walk. This is my go-to solution. When I’m battling with a situation, and I just can’t see the light, I know that it’s time to put on my walking shoes. I just give my thoughts free rein and at some point, a solution or the starting thread of an answer which I can explore further, will surface.
- Brainstorm with others. Talking things through with others is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, and it doesn’t need to be a team meeting where the purpose of the meeting is to come up with a mind-blowing idea. Pressure, remember. I find that I’m pretty dumb during formal brainstorming meetings like that. Don’t set the expectation that the solution must be found in this timeframe. I’ve had some of my biggest epiphanies just talking about things with my husband. He may say something cool that I can use, or he may not. But just talking about it gets the brain going.
- Look elsewhere. Watch a film, listen to a podcast, or read a book – related or unrelated to the problem you’re trying to solve. Your mind is working on the problem in the background without you actively thinking about it. You’ll see, hear, or read something that will trigger a thought that can ultimately lead to an answer. Worst case scenario, you’ll relax, which in itself is necessary to let your creative brain work.
- Do the dishes. Or mow the lawn or iron your clothes. You do these tasks on autopilot which gives your mind free rein to wander wherever it wants to. You’ll find all kinds of lightbulbs go on while doing mundane tasks like chores.
To be creative, we need to break away from our current thoughts and beliefs and allow our brains to change and find new solutions or connect dots it previously didn’t see.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Wayne Dyer:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
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