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Creative Problem Solving: A Path to Efficient Innovation
May 04, 2023
By: Marsha M. Huber , CPA ; Loreal Jiles , CMA
This Statement on Management Accounting (SMA) demonstrates how creative problem solving (CPS) skills can be applied to management accountants’ most pressing business challenges. CPS offers a four-step process that leads to unique and novel solutions and enables management accountants to optimize creative thinking.
The CPS methodology provides an efficient and effective framework for companies to tackle a single challenge by taking teams through four problem-solving steps:
- Clarifying a challenge
- Ideating solutions
- Developing a proposed solution
- Planning for implementation
Other IMA resources on this topic include:
Online Course: IMA Creative Problem Solving
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IMA teaches accountants innovative problem-solving
The Institute of Management Accountants released a pair of reports on how accountants can use design thinking and creative problem-solving to find innovative ways to address issues in their organizations.
Both reports, released last week in conjunction with International Management Accounting Day, are considered Statements on Management Accounting.
The Creative Problem Solving SMA describes a four-step process that leads to unique solutions within a matter of hours by optimizing creative thinking and building upon business partnerships. The methodology provides a framework for companies to identify a challenge, brainstorm solutions, and plan for implementation. Addressing accounting and finance-related challenges through creative problem-solving can help accountants generate ideas in a more inclusive and efficient way, strengthen their strategic decision-making skills and add competitive value to their organizations.
"Creative problem solving provides a really efficient path to solutions," said Loreal Jiles, vice president of research and thought leadership at the IMA, who co-authored the reports with Marsha Huber, an accounting educator, researcher and IMA member-at-large. "It's only a few hours to employ the process ... . Going through those steps, the goal is to walk out of that session with a real feasible solution identified, and a plan for how to implement that solution, and it takes us a step beyond the traditional solutions or ideas that we might have come up with in the past."
To come up with more creative ideas, accountants should engage with outside groups who may not be obvious stakeholders to hear a different perspective.
"It's this notion of being able to intentionally get creative," said Jiles. "In the past, we thought you just had to be a creative person naturally; it's accepting the school of thought that creativity can be taught and fostered. It's engaging diverse stakeholders to understand what's needed. But the ideation step is beyond traditional brainstorming. You use these unique techniques that force out-of-the box ideas to be generated, which may mean you're combining ideas that multiple people have, or you're using things like roleplaying to come up with an idea that you might not have ordinarily thought of. And then the conclusion of it is how do we develop these ideas and evaluate them, narrow them down to the one we think would be best, and how do we identify what steps we need to take to implement them."
The Design Thinking SMA teaches a five-step methodology for finance and accounting teams to develop new strategies, systems, processes and products. Management accountants can leverage design thinking to define challenges, ideate solutions and evaluate prototypes to quickly generate, converge and test new innovations.
"Design thinking is not something that you can do within a few hours," said Jiles. "It's something that typically takes weeks or months. That's primarily because design thinking includes development and implementation of the solution. While the beginning of the design thinking steps are quite similar to what you'll see in creative problem-solving, the key difference is you'll go through executing that plan that will develop in your initial discussions, and you go through this almost circular process of prototyping and testing the solution itself."
The problem-solving methodologies can be applied to issues like sustainability. "With sustainable business information, there's such an increased demand for being able to generate that data and provide assurance for it in the way that we do for finance," said Jiles. "We have spoken with chief accounting officers, chief financial officers, and partners. What they have to figure out is how do we prepare this information? How do we report sustainable business information? That's something that can be attacked using the design thinking methodology."
One step involves empathizing with various stakeholders' needs. "That's where we understand all the different stakeholders and put ourselves in their shoes," Jiles explained. "In this instance, you've got so many different stakeholders — you've got external from a regulatory perspective, and you've got internal goals within the organization to meet certain objectives from an environmental perspective. It's about empathizing and understanding what each of those stakeholders needs, and then as you progress with ideation and brainstorming, you're going through that same process to go past the traditional ideas that come to mind."
To come up with a solution, management accountants may need to go into multiple systems at the company and collect a number of pieces of data and other information, decide how to consolidate it, automate it, and then develop a prototype of what a report might look like for internal or external use.
"Coming up with that prototype is a formal step in the design thinking process, re-engaging stakeholders to iterate that prototype, and ultimately coming up with a plan to test it and implement it and put it into production," said Jiles. "Something that's growing in popularity is this notion of sustainable business information in the first place. And you could see something similar with performance reporting, for planning or forecasting,, a new approach to some of those things have been forecasted off on a regular basis. And FP&A financial planning and analysis teams might leverage design thinking to rethink how we approach the forecast. How do we get it more accurate? And you would go through this similar iterative process where you're prototyping, testing and delivering."
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How to Be a More Creative Problem-Solver at Work: 8 Tips
- 01 Mar 2022
The importance of creativity in the workplace—particularly when problem-solving—is undeniable. Business leaders can’t approach new problems with old solutions and expect the same result.
This is where innovation-based processes need to guide problem-solving. Here’s an overview of what creative problem-solving is, along with tips on how to use it in conjunction with design thinking.
What Is Creative Problem-Solving?
Encountering problems with no clear cause can be frustrating. This occurs when there’s disagreement around a defined problem or research yields unclear results. In such situations, creative problem-solving helps develop solutions, despite a lack of clarity.
While creative problem-solving is less structured than other forms of innovation, it encourages exploring open-ended ideas and shifting perspectives—thereby fostering innovation and easier adaptation in the workplace. It also works best when paired with other innovation-based processes, such as design thinking .
Creative Problem-Solving and Design Thinking
Design thinking is a solutions-based mentality that encourages innovation and problem-solving. It’s guided by an iterative process that Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar outlines in four stages in the online course Design Thinking and Innovation :
- Clarify: This stage involves researching a problem through empathic observation and insights.
- Ideate: This stage focuses on generating ideas and asking open-ended questions based on observations made during the clarification stage.
- Develop: The development stage involves exploring possible solutions based on the ideas you generate. Experimentation and prototyping are both encouraged.
- Implement: The final stage is a culmination of the previous three. It involves finalizing a solution’s development and communicating its value to stakeholders.
Although user research is an essential first step in the design thinking process, there are times when it can’t identify a problem’s root cause. Creative problem-solving addresses this challenge by promoting the development of new perspectives.
Leveraging tools like design thinking and creativity at work can further your problem-solving abilities. Here are eight tips for doing so.
8 Creative Problem-Solving Tips
1. empathize with your audience.
A fundamental practice of design thinking’s clarify stage is empathy. Understanding your target audience can help you find creative and relevant solutions for their pain points through observing them and asking questions.
Practice empathy by paying attention to others’ needs and avoiding personal comparisons. The more you understand your audience, the more effective your solutions will be.
2. Reframe Problems as Questions
If a problem is difficult to define, reframe it as a question rather than a statement. For example, instead of saying, "The problem is," try framing around a question like, "How might we?" Think creatively by shifting your focus from the problem to potential solutions.
Consider this hypothetical case study: You’re the owner of a local coffee shop trying to fill your tip jar. Approaching the situation with a problem-focused mindset frames this as: "We need to find a way to get customers to tip more." If you reframe this as a question, however, you can explore: "How might we make it easier for customers to tip?" When you shift your focus from the shop to the customer, you empathize with your audience. You can take this train of thought one step further and consider questions such as: "How might we provide a tipping method for customers who don't carry cash?"
Whether you work at a coffee shop, a startup, or a Fortune 500 company, reframing can help surface creative solutions to problems that are difficult to define.
3. Defer Judgment of Ideas
If you encounter an idea that seems outlandish or unreasonable, a natural response would be to reject it. This instant judgment impedes creativity. Even if ideas seem implausible, they can play a huge part in ideation. It's important to permit the exploration of original ideas.
While judgment can be perceived as negative, it’s crucial to avoid accepting ideas too quickly. If you love an idea, don’t immediately pursue it. Give equal consideration to each proposal and build on different concepts instead of acting on them immediately.
4. Overcome Cognitive Fixedness
Cognitive fixedness is a state of mind that prevents you from recognizing a situation’s alternative solutions or interpretations instead of considering every situation through the lens of past experiences.
Although it's efficient in the short-term, cognitive fixedness interferes with creative thinking because it prevents you from approaching situations unbiased. It's important to be aware of this tendency so you can avoid it.
5. Balance Divergent and Convergent Thinking
One of the key principles of creative problem-solving is the balance of divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the process of brainstorming multiple ideas without limitation; open-ended creativity is encouraged. It’s an effective tool for generating ideas, but not every idea can be explored. Divergent thinking eventually needs to be grounded in reality.
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is the process of narrowing ideas down into a few options. While converging ideas too quickly stifles creativity, it’s an important step that bridges the gap between ideation and development. It's important to strike a healthy balance between both to allow for the ideation and exploration of creative ideas.
6. Use Creative Tools
Using creative tools is another way to foster innovation. Without a clear cause for a problem, such tools can help you avoid cognitive fixedness and abrupt decision-making. Here are several examples:
Creating a problem story requires identifying undesired phenomena (UDP) and taking note of events that precede and result from them. The goal is to reframe the situations to visualize their cause and effect.
To start, identify a UDP. Then, discover what events led to it. Observe and ask questions of your consumer base to determine the UDP’s cause.
Next, identify why the UDP is a problem. What effect does the UDP have that necessitates changing the status quo? It's helpful to visualize each event in boxes adjacent to one another when answering such questions.
The problem story can be extended in either direction, as long as there are additional cause-and-effect relationships. Once complete, focus on breaking the chains connecting two subsequent events by disrupting the cause-and-effect relationship between them.
The alternate worlds tool encourages you to consider how people from different backgrounds would approach similar situations. For instance, how would someone in hospitality versus manufacturing approach the same problem? This tool isn't intended to instantly solve problems but, rather, to encourage idea generation and creativity.
7. Use Positive Language
It's vital to maintain a positive mindset when problem-solving and avoid negative words that interfere with creativity. Positive language prevents quick judgments and overcomes cognitive fixedness. Instead of "no, but," use words like "yes, and."
Positive language makes others feel heard and valued rather than shut down. This practice doesn’t necessitate agreeing with every idea but instead approaching each from a positive perspective.
Using “yes, and” as a tool for further idea exploration is also effective. If someone presents an idea, build upon it using “yes, and.” What additional features could improve it? How could it benefit consumers beyond its intended purpose?
While it may not seem essential, this small adjustment can make a big difference in encouraging creativity.
8. Practice Design Thinking
Practicing design thinking can make you a more creative problem-solver. While commonly associated with the workplace, adopting a design thinking mentality can also improve your everyday life. Here are several ways you can practice design thinking:
- Learn from others: There are many examples of design thinking in business . Review case studies to learn from others’ successes, research problems companies haven't addressed, and consider alternative solutions using the design thinking process.
- Approach everyday problems with a design thinking mentality: One of the best ways to practice design thinking is to apply it to your daily life. Approach everyday problems using design thinking’s four-stage framework to uncover what solutions it yields.
- Study design thinking: While learning design thinking independently is a great place to start, taking an online course can offer more insight and practical experience. The right course can teach you important skills , increase your marketability, and provide valuable networking opportunities.
Ready to Become a Creative Problem-Solver?
Though creativity comes naturally to some, it's an acquired skill for many. Regardless of which category you're in, improving your ability to innovate is a valuable endeavor. Whether you want to bolster your creativity or expand your professional skill set, taking an innovation-based course can enhance your problem-solving.
If you're ready to become a more creative problem-solver, explore Design Thinking and Innovation , one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses . If you aren't sure which course is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.
About the Author
How accountants can use creative thinking at work
At a glance.
- Innovation was once considered the domain of a small group within a workplace, but this view is changing rapidly.
- Creativity is listed as one of the top five skills required to thrive at work, but many professionals tend to have a dysfunctional relationship with their latent creativity due to unfair stereotypes about those who work in typically creative fields.
- Encouraging creativity now features on the list of priorities for many organisations that have identified a culture of innovation as being key to developing competitive advantage.
Innovation and analytical thinking will be the top skills needed to thrive in the world of work by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum .
Aligned with these skills, creativity and initiative also feature in its top five.
Mykel Dixon, author of Everyday Creative: A Dangerous Guide for Making Magic at Work and adviser to companies on how to unlock creativity among their ranks, would argue that these skills are already in demand right now.
“The world we live in used to value those who could ace the test, the ones who could memorise information, master instructions... Now we have machines for that, and they don’t need to be fed or need a break…What the world values now are those of us who can dream, those who can reinterpret and reinvent the world in new and exciting ways,” he says.
Unhelpful stereotypes portraying artists and creatives as flaky and self-absorbed, coupled with reductionist myths about people having either left-brained or right-brained capabilities, have served to encourage a dysfunctional relationship with our latent creativity, says Dixon.
He is not the only one who believes that creativity and innovation can be cultivated.
Christy Forest, CEO and executive director of LiveHire and former member of the Business Council of Australia Innovation Taskforce, says: “It used to be that innovation was the task of a small development team in the corner of an office, but now innovation happens in an environment that taps the entire workforce. You have to harness soft skills and hard skills, and have a lot of precision around process and reward.”
Risk of failure
Encouraging or reawakening creativity among employees has become key to a company’s competitive advantage.
Just take a look at the Creativity Index measure, developed by management consultants McKinsey, which shows that businesses that score highly outperform their competitors in two areas, an appetite and aptitude for innovation and shareholder return – in other words, growth and profit.
Despite this, there is a perception that a culture of innovation is hard to instil in traditional accounting and finance firms. Bureaucracy and a methodical approach conducive to compliance-based work are sometimes seen as roadblocks to creativity.
"I can afford to fail fast, as long as I have clear vision, a broad innovation portfolio and a mix of short, medium and long-term goals."
At professional services firm EY , Darren Chua leads innovation for the Oceania region.
The risk-taking that accompanies experimentation can be much harder to swallow in large organisations, he says, exacerbated by the focus on short-term performance and individuals’ fear of failure.
“In finance and accountancy, we are by nature very precise individuals. So, being allowed the ‘right to fail’ is typically incongruous with the way business is organised and run. If you are trying to hit your quarterly goal, how lenient can you be about failure?”
Chua’s advice is to be smart and deliberate in how companies frame innovation.
“I can afford to fail fast, as long as I have a clear vision, a broad innovation portfolio and a mix of short, medium and long-term goals. In that context, if we fail fast and have some space to shoulder occasional losses, we can then learn and move on quickly to the next opportunity.”
Support from the top
No enterprise is going to get creative without buy-in and support from the CEO – that is the consensus among experts.
“At a level or two removed from the CEO, it never really gets any traction, and organisations including EY and the big banks have struggled with that,” says Chua.
Any budget and resources ring-fenced for innovation should also have a clear agenda.
Chua recalls a major client who invested over A$2 million in a state-of-the-art innovation hub that, within a couple of years, became a place for good coffee meetings but not much else.
“There wasn’t true ownership of why they needed the space and how innovation would be ingrained into the core business.
The question – about whether this was a place for brainstorming or was it a fundamental way of changing the business model and processes – wasn’t asked or key leaders weren’t fully sold on it.”
Big ideas, small gains
“ Disruptive innovation ” is a concept developed by the late Harvard academic and management guru Clayton Christensen , and it is embodied by companies such as Netflix, which began as a humble DVD mail order business.
The Big Four accounting and consulting firms all pay homage to Christensen’s ideas about innovating, often giving employees licence to consider the unconventional.
PwC Ventures calls this “internal creative destruction”.
Incremental innovation is a more common approach, used by many companies to improve business-as-usual processes and performance.
This ranges from deploying Zoom or Microsoft Teams, through to automating timesheets and expenses, and encouraging employees to adopt new processes and solutions to make work more efficient and streamlined.
The question for many firms is, do they pull together a special innovation team or is creativity open to everyone?
“I think you need a bit of both,” says Chua. “
A central innovation team that is a bit different, run by people in jeans not suits; but also have a firm-wide culture, where everyone gets a chance to be creative and play a part.”
The “jeans and T-shirt brigade” is highly visible in workplaces such as Atlassian and Google, where “innovation days”, “personal projects” or a “genius hour” are set up to foster creativity within employee ranks.
The idea is to detach employees from their day-to-day work and allow them to work on a project of their choice, creating the space for out-of-the-box thinking.
For an established business in a non-technology sector, it is much harder to draw a link between innovation and investment, says Chua.
“At the end of the day, the CEO wants to know, what is my ROI? Innovation accounting is vital, yet not something that is easily measured, let alone done well.”
Innovation in the regions.
Small accountancy firms have it even tougher.
Lacking the big budgets, resources and diversity of staff skills, they have to be more efficient in cultivating creativity and quicker in putting good ideas into practice.
Kirsty Meredith is an associate lecturer in accounting at the University of the Sunshine Coast and has researched creativity in small accountancy firms in regional and rural Australia.
“Most accountants now recognise that creativity is important. But stepping back from the job at hand to ask ‘How could I do this job better?’ takes time.”
Add to this the strict regulatory environment in which the profession operates – it all serves to dampen creativity, says Meredith.
In her experience, an excessive focus on adhering to current year budgets can also cause accountants to avoid innovations that may “waste time”.
“By changing the focus from short-term budget pressure to long-term efficiency, we reduce that deterrent to creativity and innovation,” says Meredith.
Recent years have seen an increase in competitiveness and reduction in collegiality between finance and accounting firms. Meredith suggests that creative solutions to common problems go begging as a result.
“In my research, I hear common complaints in small firms, particularly around new technology applications, as if they were the only ones struggling with these problems.
But when talking to older professionals, they recount how people from other firms would get together at the end of the week for drinks and share knowledge. Today, it is very competitive, and firms are really working against each other,” says Meredith.
Her advice, not surprisingly, is “collaborate, collaborate, collaborate”.
“We can’t be experts in everything ourselves; we need to work out how to leverage expertise from others. Can we find IT experts who are willing to take the time to understand accounting? Can we share ideas with other small firms? Can we identify opportunities to network digitally?”
Meredith says it pays to maximise idea sharing by giving all staff a forum to contribute ideas – including junior accountants and receptionists – and to offer opportunities to upskill through short courses in IT and data science, for example.
The new creatives
Training to encourage creative thinking among accountancy students has become a key component of university courses, says Kirsty Meredith, lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
The shift of emphasis is in response to professional demands for graduates with competencies alongside technical knowledge, such as design thinking and problem-solving skills.
“I think the view of creativity being at odds with accounting is largely gone. With the increased focus on technology innovation and customer focus, creativity has become even more recognised as something we need to embrace,” she says.
Within professional services firms themselves, keeping employees up-to-date with the speed of technological change is an ongoing task, but an essential one, to give them the tools they need to innovate.
Last year, for example, all of EY’s 300,000 global employees were offered the chance to enrol in the world’s first completely digital corporate technology MBA, free of charge.
Amid the global pandemic, it is important to recognise that ideas and innovation depend on human imagination and ingenuity.
The shift to remote working poses new challenges to how creative collaboration will work in the future, says EY’s Darren Chua.
“You can’t do innovation really well unless people are together. Nothing ever beats that feeling and level of intensity and collaboration when you are physically together.”
INTHEBLACK Digital Magazine
More in leadership.
How to become a more creative thinker
Innovation is becoming a prized skill for accountants..
- Professional Development
Creativity is about more than composing a song or painting a picture. It has its place in the accounting profession as well.
"Historically, people would not associate creative thinking with accounting, and maybe they still don't. But I think it's trending in that direction," said Luke Selvig, CPA, a senior accountant with Boyum & Barenscheer, a CPA firm in Minneapolis, Minn. "CPAs are doing so much more than taxes and auditing now. In our firm, we do a lot of consulting. A lot of it is looking forward to help people tackle issues that may arise."
Thinking creatively can also help CPAs prepare for changes in the profession.
"You need to think ten or twenty years ahead and try to predict what will be happening in your field," said Rod Judkins, a London-based artist and author of the book "The Art of Creative Thinking."
"Are you training to do things that will soon be obsolete? Someone who can think creatively finds it much easier to adapt and think up new ways of doing things," Judkins said.
While we tend to think of creativity as a trait—as something you intrinsically possess or lack—it's actually a skill. That means there are steps you can take to become a more creative thinker. Here are some of them:
Ask questions. "Whatever field you work in, we all fall into the trap of accepting that things are done the standard way," said Judkins, who has served as a creative consultant for various businesses, including accounting firms, banks, hospitals, and airlines. He teaches people how to come up with better ways to perform habitual tasks, which can be as simple as asking questions: How many alternative ways can this be done? What can be improved? What could I be wrong about?
Likewise, asking more about your clients or colleagues can help you to gauge their needs, which you may otherwise overlook.
"Switch the perspective," Selvig said. He suggests you ask questions such as "What more can we be doing for you?" and "What else is going on in your life?"
Think visually. CPAs tend to be logical thinkers who view the world through the lens of rules and numbers. Trying to process information in a different way, though, can lead you to creative insights. It can also improve your communication with non-CPAs. Judkins gives the example of how Richard Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, didn't grasp the difference between net profit and gross profit, until one of his board members, thinking creatively, drew pictures of fish inside and outside of nets to explain it.
Take mental breaks. Being stressed or tired works against creativity. Elizabeth Watkins, CPA, a tax preparer with Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy, an entertainment business management firm in Nashville, Tenn., says she takes a walk when she's feeling worn out.
Travel. Encountering new people, places, and cultures exposes you to different ways of doing things, both personally and professionally. When traveling, "you step outside your routine, your comfort zone, and open your mind to new ideas and potential innovations," Watkins said. "You also work your creative muscle because traveling rarely goes exactly as planned, so you have to be flexible and willing to adapt given ever-changing circumstances."
Keep learning. Looking for less technical conferences or learning programs is a good place to start. Watkins attended AICPA ' s Leadership Academy this fall, and left energized and in a creative mindset. The program encourages peer sharing to help attendees discover different solutions to problems they had faced.
"Being around peers from all over the country and discussing this was transformative to me," said Watkins, who's developing a leadership program for her co-workers based on what she learned. "It's all about collaboration. Working in teams and tackling the issues is huge. We're helping clients together, not just in isolation."
Creativity is abundant, but sometimes we don't recognize that we actually are being creative, Watkins said.
"We all have a creative side," she said. "It's just a matter of broadening your understanding of what creativity is. It can be looking at a problem and thinking of four different ways to solve it. We do creative things every single day."
Anslee Wolfe is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs, Colo. To comment on this article, email senior editor Courtney Vien .
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Problem Solving in Accounting
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Problem-solving in accounting is a critical skill that can always be improved upon. Master problem-solver and CFO at Musselman & Hall Contractors LLC, Adam Porter, shares his insight and experience with us in the latest episode of CFO Weekly.
What Makes a Great Problem-solver?
If you know, you know, right? Adam instinctively knew he was a problem-solver when he was younger. Something as simple as going from point A to point B became an opportunity to experiment with which route got him to his destination quicker. And his quest for discovery hasn't stopped.
“If we don’t understand the ‘why’ behind the actions we take, how do we know if we’re really doing the right thing,” Porter said.
To solve is to correct or optimize, and none of us can do that if we don’t first recognize an opportunity to get involved. Problem-solving goes hand in hand with the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, take an active role in, and see through the potential outcome. Adam empowers each of his team members to become (and grow as) problem-solvers, by recognizing them and their contributions to identifying and solving issues.
Involving people in the problem-solving process and connecting the dots for them, showing them how they make the business a better organism, is how you create more great problem-solvers and amplify your ability to tackle problems as they appear.
Accounting Problem-solving in Action
Problem-solving is a term that gets thrown around in interviews and on resumes quite a bit. When the time comes, real problem-solvers like Adam approach things in a specific way.
If you’ve navigated a system change and survived to tell the tale, some would say you have superpowers. Upgrading something like an ERP system is a mammoth task, even for a seasoned team of executives. During a project like this, you’re reviewing and possibly amending every single organizational process.
You’re also required to identify how everything you do during this project starts to affect other areas of the business: finance, accounting, HR, IT and so on.
Adam’s own experience with one such project led him through a GL restructure. At the end of a six-month series of efforts, with the support of a Controller whom he had brought it to, Adam succeeded and was able to present information back to the business, which could be used to inform business decisions.
The domino effect: once more information became available, and it was clear how it related to each portion of the business, the people in charge of those respective portions became more engaged and more curious and more willing to work with that information.
Problem-solving is just one of those skills where nobody needs to formally identify the need for it. It’s the problem-solvers who are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to apply themselves.
The result is that everybody benefits.
The Problem-solving Process in Accounting
Adam’s very first step in his problem-solving process is to absorb as much information from as many sources as he can. Whether it’s listening to the news every day or speaking with different people inside the business, there’s this ongoing effort to find out more, learn about topical challenges that others might be facing, and use that to drive questions internally about further opportunities to solve problems.
It doesn’t necessarily need to reach the state of being a ‘problem’ to receive attention for optimization. You just need to listen and pay attention to where things might be slower, costing more than usual or requiring manual input from too many people.
Once you have this information, you can gather the right people into the room to start looking at that information, gathering more of it from different sources.
One of the key components of fully resolving any issue is to understand the full scope and depth of its current and future impact: What happens if you leave it alone, or if it gets worse, or if it’s completely resolved? Who gets more time in a day when you resolve something? Whose budget gets some breathing room? Can you reduce the amount of manual input that everybody’s required to give?
Finding the Right People to Solve the Problem in Your Accounting Department
So, once you know what the problem is, you need to get the right people in to solve it.
How do you know who that is? The team behind your solution is critical. As a CFO, you have the responsibility of setting your team up for success when they’re working on solving problems. All execs have this responsibility.
In any organization, cross-functional training is the quickest way to widen perspectives when approaching any problems. If your execs are regularly making time to get down to the operational level, and understand how and why things work a certain way, it becomes so much easier to strategically recommend a resolution when one is needed.
Problem-solving isn’t a one-way road.
Solve the Problem, Not the Symptom
How do you know when you’re solving the right thing? So many times, we see something blatantly creating a bottleneck in an operation and we’ll head right toward that point to clear the blockage. Is that really solving the problem, though?
Most times, it isn’t. Once you clear the blockage, if you don’t look a little deeper or follow it upstream, it’s probably going to reappear not long after you put in all that effort.
Adam explains that sometimes, you already know what the real root cause is, of one or more bottlenecks in the business. Sometimes it’s trial and error. Always, though, it requires you to dig deeper, uncover more detail, more links and connections to other parts of the business operation or the stakeholder network.
Adam goes on to say that getting to the root of the issue can also be achieved by just getting the right people in the room with you. Musselman & Hall Contractors does a great job of this, getting executives together at least once weekly, to just help others on the team evaluate elements, ask more questions, different questions, and gain a different perspective on things that can be missed during the daily routine.
Dealing with Resistance
Resistance is natural. Inertia affects every company in the world to some degree. When problem-solving, it’s likely that this will occur too.
You need to follow the process and listen as much as you convey messages. Cultivate the mindset within your business that someone else learning about your job is a positive thing. Take the time to explain that it’s because a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh mind might ask a different question that can enable you to work faster, reduce manual input, take on more responsibility, and actually achieve a promotion.
The right mindset about problem-solving enables it to benefit everyone on the team. No matter who is working on which problem or when, another major benefit to your business is to thoroughly document your procedures and changes thereto. It enriches the context of every issue that gets identified and resolved now and in the future, creating even greater efficiency for you as time passes.
Overcoming resistance is made possible by including and involving the right people, and enabling regular two-way communication with them through the problem-solving process.
For more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple or Spotify or your favorite podcast player.
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Problem Solving Skills For Accountants
Problem solving skills for accountants are so valuable because businesses are full of problems that need solving – and almost all business problems have some kind of financial impact.
Therefore accountants with problem solving skills are highly valuable.
As a technically proficient accountant you understand many technical solutions to finance problems and issues.
You know what complies with the rules, what is possible and what is not.
However there comes a time when you are faced with problems that are difficult, eiether because they aren’t well-formed, are ambiguous or complex.
These are problems where there is no right answer and the issues span multiple disciplines and departments.
Developing problem-solving skills will set you apart from your colleagues, as you will be able to help solve these complex problems.
For instance, you will be a vital resource for developing the finance function.
You’ll also become a valued partner to other non-financial managers.
You will be able to propose solutions that work for you and them.
You can also ensure that they work within the financial constraints that you understand well.
Understanding business problems
The first step is to understand the problem thoroughly. To examine it from every relevant angle and understand it in context.
This means understanding the business, what is important and what would be right for the business – not just finance.
Lateral thinking for problem solving
Solving a business problem often requires lateral thinking – coming at things from a new perspective.
With your financial and analytical mind you can bring a valuable perspective that your colleagues may lack.
If you are able to develop lateral thinking skills you can make a significant contribution to the debate. Particularly when you use these alongside and combined with your technical and analytical approach.
Accountants aren’t always noted for their creative thinking. Therefore being able to suspend judgement and think creatively and imaginatively can give you an edge over others. Because this enables you to bring something unique and different to the discussion.
Learning to think creatively can be liberating and fun. But it can also produce some new insights and innovations.
These can make everyone’s lives more productive and set you apart from your colleagues.
Having great ideas is one thing, but arguing the case for them and presenting your proposed solutions to your colleagues and decision-makers is another.
Being able to see – and sell – the benefits of a solution requires an insight into the business, your colleagues and the office politics that inevitably exist.
Why are problem solving skills for accountants so important?
Most business problems have a financial dimension and as accountant you have unrivalled expertise.
An accountant who can proactively solve business problems will be a highly valuable asset for any business..
Being a creative problem-solver may not be your natural strength, but these skills can be learnt and developed.
You have a huge opportunity to become a highly valued member of the team if you can develop your problem solving skills.
How are you developing your problem solving skills?
Do you have sufficient understanding of the business to propose solutions that will be accepted, how adept are you at persuading others of the merits of your solution, which of the other key soft skills for accountants do you need to develop, discover the seven essential soft skills for accountants download the report now.
There are some key soft skills to focus on as your finance career progresses.
Find out which they are by downloading the free report.
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Written by Andrea Parness, CPA, CTC
- Modified Aug 22, 2023
In our office, we say, “It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity.” When issues arise, we take the time to evaluate the situation to determine the cause. Did we break an office rule, step around a procedure or was it a case of not being careful?
At times, solving our clients’ problems definitely requires a creative approach, but the real creativity lies in truly listening to their needs and understanding their situation before finding a solution.
When a client has a problem or concern, it may be eating at them for some time before they are ready to share or even ask for help. During our tax return exit appointments, we take the time to talk with, and listen to, our clients to determine if they have any non-tax related financial concerns that are keeping them up at night.
In a recent client meeting, I asked, “How is work going for you?” and “Have either of you considered selling one of your New York City apartments?” The discussion progressed and indicated two concerns:
- Could the working spouse afford to retire?
- Would the tax on the capital gains be so large that it would not pay to sell, based on the recent rise in the apartment’s value?
After holding a discovery session with this couple, I used the tax planner feature in Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries ® to calculate several different scenarios. I held a video conference, sharing my screen to show that using retirement funds, pension distributions and Social Security benefits would yield a very small monthly difference in available funds. I was also able to show the estimated tax consequence of the sale of the second apartment, and again reminded the client that this, too, would free up cash based on no longer paying for a mortgage, real estate tax and maintenance. The couple was so relieved that I could actually see and hear their reaction during our meeting.
We all know that tax simplification is anything but simple, and that our tax clients still have concerns about a number of issues. These include paying down student loans , paying for college , planning for retirement , paying off mortgages and/or refinancing existing debt, and figuring out if they can itemize deductions on federal and/or state tax returns. Clients are even confused as to what now constitutes an itemized deduction . Among other issues, our corporate clients are concerned with sales tax nexus , succession planning and product lines.
As accounting professionals, we are still relevant – event for those clients who now file using the standard deduction!
For a good portion of 2018, I worked with a corporate client and several tax attorneys regarding sales tax and corporation entity nexus. I realized that if they were to form a new entity, they would also have the opportunity to institute a tax advantaged succession plan and offer additional employee benefits. I was able to hold a discovery session with all the officers to determine each of their personal needs and goals. We set up a subcommittee to review scenarios I am currently working on in order to take all tax options and shareholder goals into account before taking action.
When we can help evaluate the situation, many times we can clear up the confusion or concern, putting the client at ease. With the help of technology through ProSeries and a video conference, we can communicate effectively, offer advice or solutions regarding the problem, ease the client’s concerns, and help create new long and short term goals.
Editor’s note: Andrea was recently featured in a tax practice profile on the Intuit ProConnect Tax Pro Center.
Advise Your Self-Employed Tax Clients on Financial Wellness
Why innovation will attract more clients to your practice
Andrea Parness, CPA, CTC, owner of A. Parness Company, a small CPA firm based in Belle Harbor, Queens, N.Y., has been in public accounting for more than 30 years. Prior to starting her own firm in 1985, she was a partner in a small firm in Great Neck, N.Y., and worked as an internal auditor and financial analyst for a Fortune 500 company. Andrea is a member of the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Council. Find Andrea on Twitter @AndreaCPAQueeens. More from Andrea Parness, CPA, CTC
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The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible pp 298–313 Cite as
- Creative Problem-Solving
- Gerard J. Puccio 2 ,
- Barry Klarman 2 &
- Pamela A. Szalay 2
- Reference work entry
- First Online: 01 January 2023
Life and work in the beginning of the twenty-first century has been described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. In this fast changing, innovation-driven environment, Creative Problem-Solving has been identified as a fundamental skill for success. In contrast to routine problem-solving, with straightforward and repeatable solution paths, today’s problems are described as being complex and wicked. To generate the possibilities that can effectively address complex problems, individuals need to draw on the highest level of human thought – creativity. Creative Problem-Solving explicitly draws on, and promotes, effective creative thinking. The purpose of this entry is to describe and distinguish Creative Problem-Solving from other forms of problems-solving. Moreover, as Creative Problem-Solving is a deliberate creativity methodology, this chapter also provides a description of the more specific thinking skills that are embodied by the higher-order skill of creative thinking and are explicitly called on in Creative Problem-Solving. Complex problems require complex thinking, and Creative Problem-Solving provides a structured process that allows individuals to more easily and efficiently deploy their creative thinking skills.
- Complex problem-solving
- Creative thinking
- Solution path
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Puccio, G.J., Klarman, B., Szalay, P.A. (2022). Creative Problem-Solving. In: Glăveanu, V.P. (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-90913-0_41
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10 Accounting Problem Solving Skills and How To Improve Them
Discover 10 Accounting Problem Solving skills along with some of the best tips to help you improve these abilities.
Accounting is an important skill for anyone who wants to be financially successful. Without a basic understanding of accounting, it can be difficult to make sound financial decisions. However, even if you have a strong understanding of accounting principles, you may still encounter occasional accounting problems.
When these problems arise, it is important to have strong problem solving skills in order to find a resolution. In this guide, we will discuss some tips for solving accounting problems. We will also provide an overview of some common accounting problems so that you can be prepared in the event that one arises.
Regulatory filings, revenue projections, account reconciliation, general ledger, business knowledge, problem solving.
Financial statements are important because they provide a snapshot of a company’s financial health. They can be used to make decisions about whether or not to invest in a company, and they can also be used to track a company’s performance over time. Financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.
Payroll is an important skill for accountants because it allows them to process and manage employee compensation and benefits. Payroll processing includes calculating gross wages, deductions, and net wages; preparing payroll tax returns; and managing benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.
Accountants who can effectively manage payroll can help businesses save time and money. They can also help businesses comply with federal and state tax laws and regulations.
Regulatory filings are important because they are required by law. Companies must file certain documents with government agencies in order to operate. These filings include tax returns, annual reports, and shareholder communications. Failure to file these documents can result in penalties or even the closure of a company.
Regulatory filings are important because they provide transparency. By law, companies must file certain documents with government agencies. These filings are public, which means that anyone can access them. This transparency allows investors and other stakeholders to see how a company is operating.
Revenue projections are important for businesses because they help businesses plan for future income. Revenue projections can be used to determine how much money a business will need to operate and grow. Revenue projections can also be used to help businesses raise money from investors.
Revenue projections are important because they help businesses plan for future income. Revenue projections can be used to determine how much money a business will need to operate and grow. Revenue projections can also be used to help businesses raise money from investors.
Account reconciliation is the process of ensuring that all transactions in a company’s books are accurate. This process is important because it helps ensure that the company’s financial statements are accurate and can be relied upon by investors, creditors and other stakeholders.
Account reconciliation involves comparing the company’s books with the records kept by its banks, vendors and other parties with whom it does business. If there are any differences, they need to be investigated and resolved. This process can be time-consuming, but it is important to ensure that the company’s books are accurate.
Compliance is the process of ensuring that you are in compliance with the laws and regulations that apply to your business. It is important for businesses to be compliant because it helps to protect them from penalties and fines. Compliance also helps to build trust with customers and regulators.
To be compliant, businesses need to understand the laws and regulations that apply to them and then take the necessary steps to ensure that they are following the rules. For example, businesses that sell products to consumers need to be aware of the consumer protection laws that apply to them. Businesses that operate in certain industries, such as healthcare, need to be aware of the regulations that apply to them.
General ledger is an important accounting problem solving skill because it is used to track and report financial information for a business. The general ledger is a summary of all of the accounts that make up the financial statements, and it is used to keep track of the money coming in and going out of the business. The general ledger is also used to prepare financial statements, and it is important that the information in the general ledger is accurate and up to date.
Quickbooks is an important skill for anyone in the accounting field. Quickbooks is a software program that helps accountants and business owners keep track of their finances. Quickbooks can help you track invoices, manage payroll, and create financial reports. Quickbooks is a valuable skill because it can save you time and make your job easier.
Business knowledge is important for accounting problem solving because it helps accountants understand the context of the problem they are trying to solve. It also helps them identify the root cause of the problem and develop a solution that will be effective in the real world.
Accounting problem solving often involves looking at a company’s financial statements and trying to identify where the company is spending too much money or where it is making mistakes in its accounting practices. To do this, accountants need to understand the company’s business and the industry in which it operates. They also need to be familiar with the latest accounting standards and best practices.
Problem solving is an important skill for accountants because they often have to solve complex problems. Problem solving requires the ability to identify the problem, gather information, develop a plan and implement the plan. Accountants must be able to think critically and creatively to solve problems.
Problem solving often requires good communication skills. Accountants must be able to explain the problem, gather information and develop a plan with the client. They also need to be able to follow up to make sure the plan is working and to troubleshoot if there are any issues.
How to Improve Your Accounting Problem Solving Skills
1. Understand the basics of accounting If you want to improve your accounting problem solving skills, it is important to have a strong foundation in accounting principles. You should be able to read and understand financial statements, as well as have a working knowledge of payroll, regulatory filings, revenue projections and account reconciliation.
2. Be well-versed in accounting software In order to be an effective problem solver, you need to be well-versed in accounting software. This will allow you to quickly and efficiently find solutions to accounting problems.
3. Stay up-to-date on accounting news and changes It is also important to stay up-to-date on accounting news and changes. This will help you anticipate problems and find solutions more quickly.
4. Be proactive in solving problems When you encounter an accounting problem, it is important to be proactive in solving it. This means taking the time to understand the problem and researching potential solutions.
5. Communicate effectively with your team When you are working on a team, it is important to communicate effectively. This means being clear about what you need from your team members and keeping them updated on your progress.
6. Be organized and efficient When solving accounting problems, it is important to be organized and efficient. This means having a system in place for tracking your progress and keeping your work area tidy.
7. Practice problem solving One of the best ways to improve your accounting problem solving skills is to practice. This can be done by working on practice problems or by taking on small projects in your personal life.
8. Seek out feedback When you are working on solving accounting problems, it is important to seek out feedback. This can be done by asking for feedback from your team members or by seeking out feedback from a mentor.
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Creative Problem Solving
Finding innovative solutions to challenges.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Imagine that you're vacuuming your house in a hurry because you've got friends coming over. Frustratingly, you're working hard but you're not getting very far. You kneel down, open up the vacuum cleaner, and pull out the bag. In a cloud of dust, you realize that it's full... again. Coughing, you empty it and wonder why vacuum cleaners with bags still exist!
James Dyson, inventor and founder of Dyson® vacuum cleaners, had exactly the same problem, and he used creative problem solving to find the answer. While many companies focused on developing a better vacuum cleaner filter, he realized that he had to think differently and find a more creative solution. So, he devised a revolutionary way to separate the dirt from the air, and invented the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner. 
Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of solving problems or identifying opportunities when conventional thinking has failed. It encourages you to find fresh perspectives and come up with innovative solutions, so that you can formulate a plan to overcome obstacles and reach your goals.
In this article, we'll explore what CPS is, and we'll look at its key principles. We'll also provide a model that you can use to generate creative solutions.
About Creative Problem Solving
Alex Osborn, founder of the Creative Education Foundation, first developed creative problem solving in the 1940s, along with the term "brainstorming." And, together with Sid Parnes, he developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process. Despite its age, this model remains a valuable approach to problem solving. 
The early Osborn-Parnes model inspired a number of other tools. One of these is the 2011 CPS Learner's Model, also from the Creative Education Foundation, developed by Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, and co-workers. In this article, we'll use this modern four-step model to explore how you can use CPS to generate innovative, effective solutions.
Why Use Creative Problem Solving?
Dealing with obstacles and challenges is a regular part of working life, and overcoming them isn't always easy. To improve your products, services, communications, and interpersonal skills, and for you and your organization to excel, you need to encourage creative thinking and find innovative solutions that work.
CPS asks you to separate your "divergent" and "convergent" thinking as a way to do this. Divergent thinking is the process of generating lots of potential solutions and possibilities, otherwise known as brainstorming. And convergent thinking involves evaluating those options and choosing the most promising one. Often, we use a combination of the two to develop new ideas or solutions. However, using them simultaneously can result in unbalanced or biased decisions, and can stifle idea generation.
For more on divergent and convergent thinking, and for a useful diagram, see the book "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making." 
Core Principles of Creative Problem Solving
CPS has four core principles. Let's explore each one in more detail:
- Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced. The key to creativity is learning how to identify and balance divergent and convergent thinking (done separately), and knowing when to practice each one.
- Ask problems as questions. When you rephrase problems and challenges as open-ended questions with multiple possibilities, it's easier to come up with solutions. Asking these types of questions generates lots of rich information, while asking closed questions tends to elicit short answers, such as confirmations or disagreements. Problem statements tend to generate limited responses, or none at all.
- Defer or suspend judgment. As Alex Osborn learned from his work on brainstorming, judging solutions early on tends to shut down idea generation. Instead, there's an appropriate and necessary time to judge ideas during the convergence stage.
- Focus on "Yes, and," rather than "No, but." Language matters when you're generating information and ideas. "Yes, and" encourages people to expand their thoughts, which is necessary during certain stages of CPS. Using the word "but" – preceded by "yes" or "no" – ends conversation, and often negates what's come before it.
How to Use the Tool
Let's explore how you can use each of the four steps of the CPS Learner's Model (shown in figure 1, below) to generate innovative ideas and solutions.
Figure 1 – CPS Learner's Model
Explore the Vision
Identify your goal, desire or challenge. This is a crucial first step because it's easy to assume, incorrectly, that you know what the problem is. However, you may have missed something or have failed to understand the issue fully, and defining your objective can provide clarity. Read our article, 5 Whys , for more on getting to the root of a problem quickly.
Once you've identified and understood the problem, you can collect information about it and develop a clear understanding of it. Make a note of details such as who and what is involved, all the relevant facts, and everyone's feelings and opinions.
When you've increased your awareness of the challenge or problem you've identified, ask questions that will generate solutions. Think about the obstacles you might face and the opportunities they could present.
Generate ideas that answer the challenge questions you identified in step 1. It can be tempting to consider solutions that you've tried before, as our minds tend to return to habitual thinking patterns that stop us from producing new ideas. However, this is a chance to use your creativity .
Brainstorming and Mind Maps are great ways to explore ideas during this divergent stage of CPS. And our articles, Encouraging Team Creativity , Problem Solving , Rolestorming , Hurson's Productive Thinking Model , and The Four-Step Innovation Process , can also help boost your creativity.
See our Brainstorming resources within our Creativity section for more on this.
This is the convergent stage of CPS, where you begin to focus on evaluating all of your possible options and come up with solutions. Analyze whether potential solutions meet your needs and criteria, and decide whether you can implement them successfully. Next, consider how you can strengthen them and determine which ones are the best "fit." Our articles, Critical Thinking and ORAPAPA , are useful here.
Formulate a plan.
Once you've chosen the best solution, it's time to develop a plan of action. Start by identifying resources and actions that will allow you to implement your chosen solution. Next, communicate your plan and make sure that everyone involved understands and accepts it.
There have been many adaptations of CPS since its inception, because nobody owns the idea.
For example, Scott Isaksen and Donald Treffinger formed The Creative Problem Solving Group Inc . and the Center for Creative Learning , and their model has evolved over many versions. Blair Miller, Jonathan Vehar and Roger L. Firestien also created their own version, and Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Mary C. Murdock, and Marie Mance developed CPS: The Thinking Skills Model.  Tim Hurson created The Productive Thinking Model , and Paul Reali developed CPS: Competencies Model. 
Sid Parnes continued to adapt the CPS model by adding concepts such as imagery and visualization , and he founded the Creative Studies Project to teach CPS. For more information on the evolution and development of the CPS process, see Creative Problem Solving Version 6.1 by Donald J. Treffinger, Scott G. Isaksen, and K. Brian Dorval. 
Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Infographic
See our infographic on Creative Problem Solving .
Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of using your creativity to develop new ideas and solutions to problems. The process is based on separating divergent and convergent thinking styles, so that you can focus your mind on creating at the first stage, and then evaluating at the second stage.
There have been many adaptations of the original Osborn-Parnes model, but they all involve a clear structure of identifying the problem, generating new ideas, evaluating the options, and then formulating a plan for successful implementation.
 Entrepreneur (2012). James Dyson on Using Failure to Drive Success [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 27, 2022.]
 Creative Education Foundation (2015). The CPS Process [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022.]
 Kaner, S. et al. (2014). 'Facilitator′s Guide to Participatory Decision–Making,' San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
 Puccio, G., Mance, M., and Murdock, M. (2011). 'Creative Leadership: Skils That Drive Change' (2nd Ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
 OmniSkills (2013). Creative Problem Solving [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022].
 Treffinger, G., Isaksen, S., and Dorval, B. (2010). Creative Problem Solving (CPS Version 6.1). Center for Creative Learning, Inc. & Creative Problem Solving Group, Inc. Available here .
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Tippie College of Business
Ben Gilbertson is not one dimensional
The week Ben Gilbertson (BBA22/BFA22) graduated high school, he had to fit in a quick trip to Carnegie Hall. He had made it to the top .1 percent of artists who applied for a Scholastic Art Award and they flew him to New York City to attend the award ceremony.
He already knew he wanted to attend the Tippie College of Business, but the fact that fellow past Scholastic winners included Andy Warhol, Ken Burns, Richard Avedon, John Updike, Cy Twombly, and Truman Capote pushed him to add ceramics as a second degree.
He surprised plenty of people on campus with his double major, confounding fellow art and business students alike. But he didn’t care. Staying true to himself, he even confused his parents and advisors, registering for a heavy 18 semester hours throughout his college career, mixing tax class with graphic design, ceramics with financial accounting.
“Ceramics has always been something where I can do it and not think about anything else,” he said. “It’s kind of like meditation in a way. I was happy to have ceramics classes in my schedule because they gave me a break from things that were more stressful."
"It’s so good to use and explore both sides of your brain."
His time away from the Pappajohn Business Building became just as important to his success as his time in. Having the balance kept him calm, focused, and happy.
By December 2022, Gilbertson had graduated from Iowa with degrees in art and accounting, an offer from Deloitte in hand, and a successful BFA show under his belt—an exhibition titled “The Art of Business.”
For his show, the gallery was split in two, separating creative experiments in form and tactility from business-themed conceptual art. In the middle, a large jar, glazed half in textural white and half in a metallic dark gold—the lustrous color a nod to his financial side.
“It was essentially a representation of myself and my experiences,” Gilbertson said of the bisected jar. “I really wanted to capture that line in the middle, the two glazes literally flowing into each other and mixing, combining, and showing there is overlap because I think art and business are interconnected on a micro and macro level."
"From the buying and selling of art, to being analytical, to creative problem solving. And accountants see things from every perspective, which is also what you need to do in the art world.”
“The whole exhibition was a reflection of the time and dedication I’ve spent growing these two different aspects of who I am, my refusal to be forced to decide between two loves, and my stubbornness to not be put in a box of what I am or am not capable of.”
Pieces on the “art side” of the gallery included textural jars and mugs—art for art’s sake. Things he simply liked the form and/or function of and could show off his technical expertise. The “business side” of the gallery included conceptual works of social commentary.
For example, Gilbertson made “(Un)safe,” a copper-glazed piggy bank riddled with holes and displayed with pennies strewn on the plinth, after he learned that over half of households in the United States have less than $500 in their savings account.
“Something we talk about all the time in business and accounting is financial literacy. It’s insane how many people don’t even have enough money to pay for repairs if their car breaks down. With this piggy bank, you put money in, but it just falls through. And that’s a reality for so many Americans.”
In the same strain, with “Rainy Day Fund,” he literally built himself a nest egg for the exhibition, placing a gold-glazed orb in a nest of facsimile hundred-dollar bills.
“Self-made” came out of a question—how many millionaires built their own wealth? Gilbertson read an article by CNBC that said just under 70 percent of high-net-worth individuals are self-made. “There’s a perception that most millionaires inherited their wealth. So, I was surprised and wanted to visually represent that data.” He shaped and glazed ten faux-gold bars, three of them duller than the rest, representing old money.
“It just goes to show that if you want something for yourself, work extremely hard, and get a little bit lucky, you can have the things you want,” he said. “But really, I’m just giving the data in a visual way. You can make your own interpretations of it like we do in accounting.”
“It’s important to talk about how accounting is about so much more than crunching numbers, especially with all the talk about artificial intelligence."
"I read an article in The Wall Street Journal where they said many employers think that accountants are one dimensional. That wasn’t my experience at Tippie and that’s not who I am. And I know a lot of people that aren’t like that either.”
Gilbertson passed his CPA exams in June 2023 and will begin as a business valuation analyst at Deloitte in Minneapolis, Minn., January 2024. He also plans to join an artist studio so he can continue to make ceramics in a creative environment.
This article appeared in the 2023 issue of Iowa Ledger .
Why Is Creative Problem Solving Important – 15 Possible Reasons
Why is creative problem-solving important? The main reason is: to keep up with the competition in today’s ever-changing business landscape.
Developing innovative solutions to complex problems is a critical skill for any organization.
15 Reasons Why Is Creative Problem Solving Important
There are many advantages to using creative problem-solving techniques in the workplace.
They can change the way employees think about problems. And it can help organizations to be more agile and adaptable.
Some of the benefits of creative problem-solving include the following:
1. Encourages Out-Of-The-Box Thinking:
Creative problem-solving techniques encourage employees to think outside the box. They come up with innovative solutions to problems.
This type of thinking is essential in today’s rapidly changing business environment .
When it comes to problem-solving, organizations need to adapt and change quickly . That’s why it’s important to have creative employees who can think outside the box.
When faced with a problem, they can devise an innovative solution others may not have thought of.
And to be able to do this, they need to be encouraged to think creatively.
2. Helps You Solve Complex Problems:
Creative problem-solving can also help you solve complex problems. Often, complex problems require more than one solution.
The alternatives through creative thinking can help you find the best possible solution.
With creative problem-solving, you’re not just looking for the first solution that comes to mind. Instead, you’re looking for the best possible solution.
So effective problem-solving requires both creative and critical thinking .
Thinking creatively can also help you find new ways to look at old problems. This can give you a different perspective and help you find new solutions.
3. Encourages Innovation:
Innovation is important for businesses to stay ahead of the competition. And it let them be able to offer new products and services .
Creative problem-solving can help encourage innovation . It allows businesses to develop new ideas and find new ways to do things.
Some of the world’s most successful businesses have grown because they innovated.
With time, many businesses lose their ability to be creative and innovative. This can lead to them becoming stagnant and eventually fail.
You can take Nokia as an example. The company was once the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturer.
However, it needed to innovate and keep up with the competition. As a result, its market share declined sharply, and it is now struggling to survive.
4. Builds Confidence:
Confidence is important in all areas of life. When you’re confident, you’re more likely to take risks and seize opportunities .
Learning how to solve problems creatively can help you build your confidence .
This is because you’ll know you have the skills to deal with whatever challenges come your way.
Some people are born confident. But for most of us, confidence needs to be developed.
If you lack confidence, solving problems creatively can help you build them up.
Your comfort zone is what limits you. So you must push yourself to try new things and solve problems uniquely. And you’ll slowly expand your comfort zone.
This can ripple effect on other areas of your life, making you more confident in everything you do.
5. Makes You More Resilient:
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and keep going despite difficulties.
It’s a key quality for anyone who wants to achieve their goals.
And creative problem-solving can help you develop resilience.
When you face a problem, it’s natural to feel discouraged . But you need to view problems as opportunities to learn and grow. You’ll be more likely to find a creative solution .
This mindset will help you persevere when things get tough and overcome obstacles.
Some people are naturally more resilient than others. But everyone can benefit from developing this quality.
And creative problem-solving is one of the best ways to do
6. Develops Your Analytical Skills:
Creative problem solving doesn’t mean you never use logic or analysis. But, best solutions often come from a combination of creative and logical thinking.
To find a truly original solution, you need to be able to see problems from different angles. This requires both left-brain (logical) and right-brain (creative) thinking.
With creative problem-solving, you develop ability to analyze problems from many perspectives.
This will make you better at finding innovative solutions to complex challenges.
With better analytical skills, you’ll also be better equipped to handle difficult decisions . And you can solve problems quickly and efficiently.
7. Teaches You How to Be Proactive:
Proactive people don’t wait for things to happen. They make things happen.
The best way to achieve success is to take the initiative and be proactive.
When you’re proactive , you don’t wait for opportunities to come knocking on your door. Instead, you go out and create your opportunities .
When you’re proactive, you always look for ways to improve your situation. You’re constantly looking for ways to take your life to the next level.
8. It Helps You Develop A Positive Attitude:
A positive attitude is essential for achieving success in any area of life.
If you want to be successful, you need to start thinking positive thoughts .
Creative problem-solving helps you develop a positive attitude. It forces you to look at problems in a different light.
It helps you see that every problem has a solution. And, it helps you understand that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Some people see problems as roadblocks . They think that every problem is a negative thing.
This way of thinking will only hold you back.
Creative problem-solving helps you see problems as opportunities. In addition, it helps you develop a positive attitude that will lead to success.
9. Helps Employees Handle Change:
Change is a constant in today’s business world. And it can be difficult for employees to deal with.
They’ll be better equipped to handle change if they’re trained in creative problem-solving.
They’ll be able to adapt and find new solutions to problems. Change is no longer a negative thing but an opportunity to grow.
When you embrace change, you open up a world of possibilities .
10. Maintains Employee Engagement:
Employee engagement is important for any business. And creative problem-solving can help maintain employee engagement.
Engaged employees are more likely to be productive and motivated . They’re also less likely to leave the company.
Engaged employees are an asset to any business. And creative problem-solving can help keep them engaged and resourceful .
Some ways you can encourage employee engagement through creative problem-solving are:
– Encourage employees to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.
– Solicit feedback from employees regularly .
– Encourage employees to share their ideas with others.
– Create an environment that is conducive to creativity and innovation.
– Make sure employees feel like their work
11. Encourage Teamwork:
When employees work together to solve problems, it can help build morale. And it can foster a sense of camaraderie.
Creative thinking activities can help employees learn to work together and build trust .
Most creative thinking activities are in the form of groups. People in groups can share their ideas with each other and build on each other’s ideas.
Some examples of creative thinking activities that encourage teamwork are:
– Group discussion
– Team building exercises
12. Be Willing to Take Risks:
To encourage creative problem-solving, you need to be willing to take risks.
Encourage employees to experiment and try new things.
Make sure they feel comfortable making mistakes. And you can suggest ways to turn those mistakes into learning opportunities.
Some examples of ways to take risks are:
– Encourage employees to experiment
– Try new things
– Make mistakes and learn from them
13. Encourage A Growth Mindset:
A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence can be developed.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve their abilities by:
– Good teaching, and
Creative problem solving requires a growth mindset. Without it, people give up too easily when they encounter a problem.
They may also be afraid to take risks, because they don’t want to look foolish.
Encouraging a growth mindset will help employees feel more confident about their abilities. And it can make them more likely to take risks and try new things.
14. Striving For Originality:
In order to be creative, you have to be willing to take risks. This means that you need to be okay with the possibility of failing.
You also need to be open to new ideas . And you need to be willing to experiment .
One way to encourage creativity is to set aside time for employees to explore new ideas . This can be through brainstorming sessions or another type of creativity exercise.
Originality comes from taking existing ideas and making them your own. This means that you need to be able to see the potential in other people’s ideas.
It also means that you need to be able to take those ideas and build on them. This takes a lot of imagination and creative thinking.
15. Be Persistent:
Creative problem-solving is not a one-time event. Instead, it’s a process you must go through again and again.
You need to be persistent in your search for new ideas. You also need to be persistent in trying out new solutions .
Keep going even if your first attempt doesn’t work. Instead, keep trying until you find a solution that does work.
And with creative problem solving, the more you practice , the better you’ll become at it.
So keep at it, and soon you’ll solve problems like a pro!
Why is creative problem-solving important? Above are some of the reasons why creative problem-solving is important. As you can see, it’s a very useful skill to have.
And it’s one that you can use in all areas of your life, both personal and professional.
So start practicing creative problem-solving today. And you will see how it can help you succeed in all areas of your life.
Last Updated on 12 months by Shahzaib Arshad
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Creative Problem Solving - Introduction
Creativity is a crucial factor in business today and any manager without creative insights into a business cannot handle the multiple requirements of an increasingly malleable customer base. In this tutorial, we will understand the meaning of Creativity and Focus based on the values and significance of creative problem solving in relation to building situation handling abilities in working professionals and business executives.
Before we move on with that, we need to first give a proper meaning to the word “Creativity”, and then explain the difference between “Creativity” and “Innovation”, as these are the most interchangeably used and easily mistaken terms.
Creativity is a Priceless Gift
Creativity brings inside an individual some significant skills to analyze any discussion from multiple points of view. It cultivates the ability of dismantling any information and processing it in different ways, so that newer facts can be explored and understood.
All of us must have some creativity because we can manage to find ways to handle new situations when faced with it. Creativity is closely associated with the skills of imagination and often a creative thought is difficult to put in words, because it involves thinking deeply about a subject and coming up with different facets to it.
What is Creative Problem Solving?
Defining creativity is not easy, as there are multiple points which involves an ability to come up with new and different viewpoints on a subject. It involves breaking down and restructuring our knowledge about the subject to gain new insights into its nature. However, any definition of creativity is complicated because the concept has many dimensions.
Creativity is the process of organizing our learning, reasoning and logic in such a manner that we can get a better understanding of the situation that we are considering. Maslow, the famous American Psychologist , had envisioned Creativity in two levels of evolution −
- Primary and
As per him, Primary Creativity was the reason behind all new ideas, innovation, etc. and Secondary Creativity is more induced in nature and was obtained through working together and observing other people’s behavior and functioning. He also observed that the primary creativity was found abundantly in children, but the same children lost this creativity when they became adults.
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