During his closing keynote of the Winning is Everything conference Jan. 16-18 in Las Vegas, Sir Ken Robinson, author, speaker and advisor on creativity and innovation, challenged attendees to reawaken something he said becomes dormant with adulthood.
“We underestimate the power of imagination,” elaborated Robinson, whose popular 2007 TED Talk on the fallibility of the education system has garnered nearly 4.3 million viewers on YouTube. “We haven’t applied it properly.”
Robinson blamed this on the crisis of American schools “locked into the 19th century,” wherein “most people go through public education and don’t come out discovering what they’re truly good at.”
The onus then shifts to organizations, which, in addition to valuing and inspiring its people, should be constantly reinventing themselves, he continued, making “innovation a habit.”
The three-day practice management event at the Bellagio Resort & Casino featured speakers and panelists from firms doing just that, in ways ranging from unique work-integration initiatives to mentorship programs.
In the accounting profession, of course, the definition of innovation can vary widely—apparent in the way many speakers assured practitioners in the crowd that they "get it,” simply by being in attendance.
“It” being change, from demographic to technological to economic, and those who don’t have a grasp should quickly find one, according to Rebecca Ryan, who, during her session, estimated the U.S. will be through our “economic winter” in 2020 and warned that “when spring comes, the pecking order resets.”
This is exacerbated by the changing demographics of a “New America,” apparent in the divide between the profiles of Obama and Romney supporters in the last election, she added.
“If you combine the market power of African Americans and Hispanics, you have the equivalent of the economy of fourth largest country in the world,” Ryan explained, adding that over half of all CPA graduates are women and 25 percent are nonwhite—but by 2030 one-third of partners will likely be women, and half of firm staff nonwhite.
Another statistic she shared: From 2011 to 2012, the percentage of virtual firms doubled from 4 to 8 percent.
You can “build a big dam to new trends,” Ryan continued, like the cloud, but firms should “ride and enjoy them. Does your firm have the agility to capitalize?”
Technology in firms is no longer a “model” but a “culture,” Boomer Consulting’s Gary Boomer explained during a panel of the Advisory Board, the think tank coalition that hosts the conference. And it requires a multi-generational population.
“Now is most exciting time in the profession,” Boomer said. “You need to involve young people in the future firm. Forty-five-year-old partners are already cynical.”
But just how do you retain those non-cynical, young “superstars” who might still have that elusive sense of imagination?
“Make them equity partner as soon as possible,” advised SS&G managing director Gary Shamis. “Break the bottle…put some skin in the game.”