Unlocking creativity with discipline

Why tapping into the right brain is more valuable than ever

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP, CGMA | February/March 2019 Footnote

You may think creativity and accounting mix as well as oil and water. But, what if I told you that your performance and business could improve by strengthening your creative mind?

In “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” author Daniel H. Pink explores how strengthening your creative side (your right brain) is a skill that is becoming increasingly valuable as we move into the “Conceptual Age,” a time when the ability to create something new is more important than ever. He argues that left-brained, more logically thinking people have skills that are more likely to be outsourced or automated. On the contrary, right-brained people are more artistic, innovative and big-picture — attributes that aren’t so easily given to machines.

What Pink is describing doesn’t mean people who are typically left-brained will be out of work. In fact, Pink himself is more of a logical person than a creative one. However, what he does argue is that left-brainers have to start exercising their whole minds to take a competitive edge in today’s business climate.

“In order to make it today, you have to do work that’s hard to outsource, hard to automate and that delivers on these new imperatives of this very abundant age,” said Pink in a conversation with Oprah on her Super Soul podcast. To strengthen your right-brain muscles and become more mindful, Pink suggests working on these six abilities:
  • Design. Build awareness of how great design impacts our day-to-day lives.
  • Story. Exercise your storytelling chops by practicing creating a beginning, middle and end.
  • Symphony. Identify and integrate relationships into a whole by practicing simple drawings.
  • Empathy. Listen to the conversations of people around you and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Play. Rediscover your sense of wonder by awakening your senses at a show or exhibit.
  • Meaning. Find a higher purpose by focusing not just on accumulation, but on fulfillment.

By exercising these six abilities, Pink says, anyone can become a more innovative person.

Using your right brain for career and business innovation

As CPAs, there’s often an assumption that our work lives and thrives in our left brains. Now, there’s some truth to the idea that accountants think very logically — our thoughts and ideas are organized in spreadsheets, software and slide decks. But, for many of us, there is a shift that is taking place. We are beginning to realize the value in strengthening and flexing our right brain or creative-thinking muscles.

Whether or not you think of yourself as creative, the process of starting and building a business, forming a customer or client base, creating products and services that resonate with people, and doing your best work are all very creative acts. I’ve learned over the years that these types of creative acts require a great deal of mindfulness to avoid hitting a block, just like in art or music. More importantly, they require practice to keep the muscles strong.

Connecting body and mind

In order to start building up your right-brain muscles to have a successful professional life in an age that rewards creativity, it’s time to think about what inspires you. What activity reduces your stress levels and clears your mind?

For me, yoga is one of the practices I use to connect my body and mind. Beyond its physical benefits, yoga helps create the stillness I need to work harder and make more intentional decisions. It also relieves stress, improves my concentration and clears my mind to allow for better creative flow. From this practice, I’ve learned better ways to bring innovation to my businesses and to think about them in more abstract ways.

In addition to yoga, I use painting and music to help me connect to my creativity and inspire innovation. But no two people are alike; we are all unique. The work is to identify activities that will help you relieve stress and tension so you can gain clarity and creativity in your workday. After all, robots will not be able to duplicate your human creativity, big ideas and innovation!

Applying creativity to the future

In the business world, we might not always be looking for divine inspiration for our daily work. However, there’s a lot to be said for discipline, practice and clarity when it comes to fostering our capacity to innovate. As with most areas of our lives, discipline and intention go a long way. As you consider the future of the profession, it may be time to start thinking with the other vast hemisphere of your mind. The most creative thoughts can lead to amazing results in our businesses.

So, set out and find where your creativity lives!

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP, CGMA is CEO of The B3 Method Institute, a keynote speaker and board member, Technology Innovations Taskforce leader for the AICPA’s Information Management Technology Assurance (IMTA) Executive Committee, and author of the books “Business, Balance & Bliss: How the B3 Method Can Transform Your Career and Life,” and “Integrative Advisory Services: Expanding Your Accounting Services Beyond the Cloud,” published by Wiley. Learn more at www.amyvetter.com. Follow Amy on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at @amyvettercpa.