How to Monitor Trends and Evaluate Information to Avoid Overload

Even if you're an avid news reader, it can still be nearly impossible to keep up on everything going on in the world. For accountants, this can be problematic, especially since current events often affect the industry in real time. Here are some tips to help you evaluate what you're reading so you can focus on what matters.

Sep 3rd 2020
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Being overloaded by information and communication everyday is frustrating, but not totally unavoidable. If you’re adept at spotting the significant accounting industry trends, you can cut down on the amount of extraneous information that otherwise competes for your attention. How so?

Most of what reaches us today in terms of information and communication is not critical to our effective functioning, professionally or personally. Much of what we’re exposed to, even within accounting, can represent heightened trivia or passing fancies. Long-term, significant trends, though, are relatively easy to spot and monitor with a few simple guidelines. Will working from home more often prove to be a long-term trend? For some, the answer is yes.

Despite the rapid onset of the Coronavirus, significant trends, especially industry-related ones, are usually long-term developments, such as the progression of GAAP or mergers among the mega-firms. The U.S. population’s propensity towards being overweight and obese, as a cultural example, although now 40 years in the making, was discernible in the early 1980s, as are many other trends, such as greater reliance on technology or more intrusive technology.

When you identify a verifiable trend, whether it’s global, national, social or specific to accounting, consider how this trend will impact the industry – specifically in terms of how:

        * businesses or organizations operate
        * executives and managers lead
        * supervisors will be impacted
        * front line workers will be impacted
        * costs and operations might change

What About Me?

Consider economic or financial implications that might result, new opportunities that might arise, and new risks that could emerge. On an individual level, ask yourself:

        * Acknowledging what I believe will occur, what are my optimal action steps?
        * How can I capitalize on my understanding of this trend?
        * What benefits can I bring to my organization, department, boss and team?
        * In what capacity can I serve?
        * Should I act as a harbinger to others?
        * Can I provide training or instruction?

Scenario Thinking

Ask yourself what courses of action are worth taking, given that 1) the trend proceeds as you currently envision it, 2) it proceeds with greater rapidity or vehemence, or 3) it proceeds with less impact or at a slower place than currently seems likely. As such, you can engage in scenario thinking whereby you plot three different paths based on the overall length, strength and impact that the trend will have. Devising such scenarios will better prepare you to embark upon a course of action as time marches forward and the nature and impact of the trend become more evident.

Consider what else will be impacted and the downstream effects of the trend. In other words, given that XYZ will occur in full bloom over the next two years, what other trends could be set in motion? How might your organization, department, boss, team and coworkers be further impacted by the offshooting trends from the original one you were tracking? Yes, your inquiry will involve some conjecture. You will be better off, nevertheless, than if you don’t consider the ramifications. Forewarned is forearmed.

Avoid the "Sensation du Jour"

Keeping tabs on significant, long-term trends helps you filter your personal information intake. Rather than be buffeted by the sensation de jour – the ceaseless media attempts to make something out of nothing – you’ll find yourself relying more on  high-quality industry and news sources, as well as on a handful of knowledgeable others with whom you can regularly share information.

It is possible to largely avoid being buffeted by the merry-go-round of headlines and information to which you’re exposed. The best and the brightest in the industry have already developed systems for identifying what’s truly important and what is best left by the curb.

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