As accounting professionals, we work in a field where we can inspire innovation in the workplace. We have the opportunity to creatively solve problems, influence processes and meet the needs of our clients.
We may work with money matters, but innovation is not about money. It was Apple's Steve Jobs who said that, adding, "It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."
In a new Robert Half survey, innovation in the workplace takes center stage, suggesting that companies may be their own worst enemy when it comes to new ideas, products, methods and breakthroughs. CFOs cited these obstacles to innovation: too much bureaucracy (30 percent), being bogged down by daily tasks and putting out fires (27 percent), lack of new ideas (25 percent) and ineffective leadership (16 percent).
When companies don’t position themselves as forward-thinking, nimble organizations, it can affect their hiring efforts, too. A separate survey shows 87 percent of workers consider a company’s reputation for being innovative as an important consideration when evaluating potential employers.
In that spirit, here are five ways to help accounting professionals think outside the box to create a culture of innovation in the workplace:
1. Play to innovate
Several years ago, Tim Brown, CEO of innovation and design company IDEO, gave a TED talk focused on play and creativity at work. According to Brown, company culture that gives permission to play is more apt to see high levels of creativity. Where employees have the security to play, they’ll take more creative risks.
Play at companies like Pixar and Google is easy — their offices are built for creativity. In less creative fields and offices, play is still possible, because it’s subjective. Play can mean exploring a new idea, collaborating on a new solution or simply challenging colleagues to a friendly game of Sudoku or Jenga. As Brown suggests, play is a state of being.
2. Communicate and collaborate
Some of us go out of our way to avoid meetings, stay off conference calls, wrap ourselves in cubicle-shaped bubble wrap and get through the day with as little human interaction as we can get away with.
However, engaging on a significant and open level is one of the best ways to innovate. As a manager, schedule brainstorming sessions. Bounce ideas off members of your team. Talk through challenges. Be available to your staff outside of meetings
Communication and collaboration encourage us to work through ideas in new ways with different perspectives.
3. Innovate when you’re tired
Why do some of your best ideas come when you feel most like a zombie? Science. A study by Albion College’s department of psychological science asserts that problem solving during your least optimal time of day may be the best time.
Consider saving hard questions and innovation pushes for early in the morning or late at night. Being tired means reduced attention control, which translates to ideas that aren’t hindered by your own judgment. For some people, working during their non-optimal time of day is actually the key to boosting productivity.
4. Unload the stress
Mindfulness is the ability to stay right here, right now. It means that when you’re working on a tax document, that’s all you’re doing. You’re not planning dinner or ruminating about a past budget mistake. You’re here. Everyone experiences mindfulness differently, so it’s important to find what works for you.
Mindfulness has been long associated with stress management, but it may also play a role in unleashing creativity at work. A quiet mind can make room for creative thinking in business. Learn to meditate and focus fully.
Managers can help encourage innovation by making sure their employees aren’t stretched so thin that their only sense of accomplishment is crossing off things on their to-do lists. If you find the workload hinders your innovation, you might consider talking to your boss about it.
5. Get up and move
Years ago, Einstein said he thought up his theory of relativity while riding a bicycle. Today, the link between exercise and creativity has been firmly established.
At Silicon Valley tech firms, employees can play table tennis or arcade games. But many of us don’t work in a play-centric office. So how do we make the best of our “right here, right now”?
Take a walk around the building. Do some in-the-chair stretches. Use your lunch hour to jog or hit an exercise class. Take a vacation and unplug to recharge. Hello, innovation.
If you’re serious about boosting innovation in the workplace, be aware that new ideas take time to flourish. Be patient. Make innovation an ongoing focus, and strive to attain the support you need to realize your vision.
Looking for some more inspiration? Subscribe to our newsletter, and read articles like this: 3 Team-Building Exercises for Accounting and Finance Staff.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.