Innovation Is More Than Idea Generation | AccountingWEB

Innovation Is More Than Idea Generation

By Patrick Tam, CMA®, CPA, Member of IMA® Young Professionals Advisory Committee, Manager, Financial Planning and Analysis in the Property Casualty Insurance Industry, Creator of TheConstantAnalyst blog


Innovation is often associated with idea generation, leading organizations to believe that companies with better ideas gain the advantage in the marketplace. As a result, organizations create think tanks or brain trusts that sit in a room and brainstorm how to disrupt business, but rarely do they actually act on these ideas.

Similarly, conventional wisdom assumes that risks are the result of poor idea generation. When ideas fail, the proposed solution is to gather the smartest people and have them find better ways to overcome challenges in the business, instead of focusing on the benefits of failure.

These theories regarding innovation are wrong. Innovation is not merely idea creation. There are plenty of ideas in today’s world, and the risks of innovation do not result from the quality of ideas. Innovation requires rapid execution and rapid execution mitigates the risk of failure.

Create a Culture with a Bias, Toward Action
Successful innovation starts with creating a culture that has a bias toward action and rewards execution. Instead of having one small team or department tasked with innovation, it should be part of an organization’s culture. Remember that action begets more action, and idea creation only begets more ideas.

While careful planning is important, at some point it is necessary to stop the creativity process and focus on execution, even when an idea is not perfect. Executing and acting on an idea will naturally help the idea evolve.

In the book “Making Ideas Happen,” Scott Belsky offers great advice on how to create a culture based on action, showing how creativity and productivity are linked. Since innovation is a numbers game, truly game-changing ideas often come from trial and error. Here are just some of the thoughts I’ve noted from reading the book:

  • Energy is fixed, you must prioritize
  • Think about how you usually allocate your energy
  • Keep lists
  • Make a daily focus area
  • Don’t dwell on or worry about negative outcomes
  • Don’t hoard urgent items (delegate)
  • Create a responsibility grid
  • Create windows of non-stimulation to get projects done
  • Listen to what others nag about
  • Make the most of meetings, don’t meet just because it’s Monday
  • Always leave meetings with action items
  • Keep shipping
  • Recognize failure is OK
  • Remember constraints increase productivity
  • Recognize you need a community to make big things happen, you can’t do it on your own

Act While Ideas are Fresh
Time is the one resource that you cannot buy. When you have an idea, you must act on it quickly while your team is excited about it. Without action, this initial energy will deteriorate. As people act, their energy will be sustained by the progress they make and the natural energy that comes from working together.

Just as time deflates the team’s energy to rally behind an idea, it will also affect the quality of the idea. The longer you let an idea sit on a piece of paper or on a white board in a conference room without actively engaging the team on that subject, the foggier the idea becomes in each individual’s mind. Find ways to keep all members of your team, even those not actively executing aspects of the project, engaged in the process.

If an organization repeatedly develops new ideas but delays implementing them, resentment towards new projects can creep in among team members who may feel that any energy spent on brainstorming will be wasted. This type of atmosphere will not inspire innovation. Remember that acting on ideas helps inspire commitment from others.

Embrace Failure
If you are going to fail, fail quickly and cheaply. Remember that part of innovation means change. Any new territory embarked upon will heighten the probability of failure. That is not a bad thing. In fact, if you can discover how to fail quickly and cheaply, learn from that experience, modify actions or plans and maintain velocity, then you have a huge advantage over others.

While there are many benefits to quickly acting on ideas, one of the potential costs is not having time to fully vet all the details. You will experience missteps; be ready to address these items quickly. Build a culture that reacts in a constructive way to changes in direction or adjustments in the plan, and acknowledge those that experience additional pressure or stress due to these challenges.

The faster you take action and execute on your ideas, the faster you will discover real challenges that either warrant a change in strategy or require a test of commitment. Breaking through these challenges is critical. When you are committed to your idea, others in the organization will follow.

Innovation is not about having a list of great ideas; it’s about putting those ideas into action. By implementing ideas, you will encourage more idea generation, see the potential flaws in your theory, have the opportunity to change your approach and achieve true innovation.


This blog

The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.