One author who I really enjoy reading is Daniel Burris. He is an innovation expert and global futurist who writes about issues that will be affecting us in the future and how we can prepare to respond to them. His latest book, Flash Foresight, is a good read and identifies how we can distinguish between what’s certain to happen in the future (future fact) and what’s uncertain (future maybe), and he discusses principles we can use to deal with them both.
I also enjoy reading Burris’s regular articles and blogs, and it was a recent one that caught my attention, because I think it applies to nearly everyone and most certainly to CPAs and the CPA profession. In it, he talks about how every profession is a combination of both science and art. The “science” (or technical) part can be taught and learned, but equally important is the “art” part of any profession, and often it is the “art” that really allows you to differentiate yourself from others.
Certainly to become a CPA, you have to learn and develop the “science” of the profession. Technical knowledge in accounting is critical to be able to pass the CPA Exam and to effectively provide services to clients and employers. But the “art” of being a CPA, that is your problem-solving ability, diagnostic capabilities, communication skills and ways you go about solving problems are just as critical to being a successful professional.
I guess another way of saying it is book smart versus street smart, or technical knowledge versus common sense. We probably all know people who are brilliant when it comes to technical knowledge, but lack the practical ability to execute on things. It isn’t always the smartest person who rises to the top, but rather one who can combine necessary intelligence with other intangibles to be a good professional or leader and execute.
Burris encourages all professionals to ask themselves a number of questions to get properly focused on both the science and art of their work. I think they would be good questions for all CPAs to consider. On the science side, it is things like:
- Am I learning and maximizing the science side of my profession?
- Am I taking the classes (CPE) I need to take to stay current and knowledgeable in my field?
- Am I updating and upgrading myself?
- Am I getting training on all the new tools and capabilities that will help me do my job better?
On the art-focused side, it includes questions like:
- Am I reading about creativity and problem solving?
- Am I making sure that I am not too quick to judge?
- Am I developing my communication and writing skills?
- Have I found a mentor who is sharing his or her knowledge and wisdom with me?
- Am I working on the art side of my profession, or am I just working on the science side?
Art and science, two sides of the same coin that are both essential for being a successful professional.