People think in stories – sequences of related events, based on causal models of the world.
These causal models tend to be based on physical analogies: think ‘push’, ‘pull’, ‘direction’, ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘take a hit’ and ‘turbulence’. The list goes on.
Stories help us join the dots between otherwise disorienting and apparently (but perhaps not actually) discreet pieces of information so we can form coherent models of the world.
They are about relationships.
Just imagine how disorienting your perceptions would be without causal stories about the world. Your mind would be overwhelmed with seemingly random light, sound, taste, smell and touch.
That’s a good metaphor for the problem business owners face when it comes to understanding the increasingly vast quantities of data generated and presented to them every day by ever more sophisticated software. It is simply overwhelming.
To be understood at an intuitive level, data needs to be packaged for us in clear and understandable stories that can form the basis of action.
To an extent, software can help us with this by marshalling information into graphs and charts that are much easier to interpret intuitively than the raw data – perhaps because they bring data much closer to the physical analogies that form the basis of the best stories.
But the value of the automated approach is limited when it comes to anything beyond the most straightforward business decisions. And, of course, graphs and charts do still need interpreting.
This is where an accountant’s ability to turn raw data into a meaningful story really matters and where we think the future of the profession lies.
Accountant storytellers will increasingly be the bridge between the rapidly expanding volumes of raw data and the client.
The quality of the stories accountants tell about the data will be what separates the best from the rest.
That’s why accountants need to start changing the story of the profession itself and reframe it around human relationships and creativity.
Careers in accountancy might then become a more enticing prospect for the best talent, too often put off by outdated stereotypes and decades-old horror stories of early careers dominated by manual data entry and reconciliation.