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."
Innovation distinguishes between leaders and followers, which is another Jobs quote. While innovation comes naturally for some people, others may need a boost to get into the right mindset.
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, a work 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. How can you play at work? 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 Binder Clip Tag. As Brown suggests, play is a state of being.
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. Bounce ideas off coworkers. Talk through challenges. Communication lets us 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. Get Zen
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.
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 a yoga class. Hello, innovation.
No matter your job title or level of experience, you can boost your innovation in the workplace. Creativity truly comes in all shapes and sizes.
Looking for some innovation inspiration? Keep reading!
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Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated to reflect more current information.