Accounting Conference on Creativity

30 June 2010 at 3:29 pm 10 comments

| Peter Klein |

Hold your accountant jokes, everybody, because the journal Accounting, Organizations, and Society, along with IESE Business School and Sda Bocconi School of Management, is sponsoring a workshop on creativity and it looks really interesting. The workshop, “Debating the Link Between Creativity and Control,” takes place 4–5 April 2011 in Barcelona. Here’s the blurb:

Creativity is more important today than ever before. In fact, in current hypercompetitive environments, where the comparative advantage is easily eroded by technological evolution and by imitative or innovative action of competitors, firms can only react by means of creative processes aimed at renewing market strategies and product lines. Different streams of research on creativity have been developed over time, evolving from different sources, focusing on somewhat different aspects and suggesting a rich set of managerial results.

The aim of the workshop is to start an interdisciplinary debate on creativity, calling together contributors from psychology, sociology, management, and accounting domains. The discussion will explore the link between creativity and control, seen as a promising stream of research not only because of its infancy but most important because of its relevance to the world of management. The event will contribute to unveiling how the dialog between different disciplinary perspectives may lead to a deeper understanding on how to control creativity processes, thanks to the potential synergies deriving from the study of this phenomenon from different theoretical angles.

Further details and submission info below the fold.

Intended participants

This workshop seeks to bring together academics from different domains — such as psychology, sociology, management, and accounting — to discuss the above mentioned key research themes from a broader multidisciplinary perspective.

Topics

While prospective contributors may cover a wide range of themes, the following areas provide an indication of some of the topics that may be analyzed:

  • Factors affecting creativity in the realm of managerial decision making.
  • Alternative collaborative social structures in shaping individual creativity.
  • A metrical approach to creativity, proposing performance measurement frameworks and reward systems to sustain creative behaviour.
  • The impact of individual differences, intrinsic motivation and risk taking on employees’ creativity.
  • The conflict, political influence and negotiated order embedded in the management control of collective creativity processes.
  • Leaders control orientation in creative settings.
  • The relevance of time in the description of control processes in the environments for creativity.
  • Individual-group-organization integrated frameworks for understanding management control in creative work domains.

Conference papers must be submitted by email before 30 November 2010 to Prof. Christopher Chapman (Christopher.chapman@imperial.ac.uk) and Prof. Antonio Davila (ADavila@iese.edu) and Prof. Angelo Ditillo (angelo.ditillo@unibocconi.it). Authors will be notified of their acceptance to the workshop by 20 January 2011. A financial contribution towards conference expenses will be made to authors of accepted papers.

Authors of selected papers from the conference will be invited to submit revised papers for a special issue of Accounting, Organizations, and Society, subject to the normal review process of the journal.

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Amsterdam Workshop on Entrepreneurial Capabilities Isomorphism in Higher Education

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Warren Miller  |  30 June 2010 at 8:26 pm

    As a CPA, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, Peter. I would think that the accounting trade has seen all of the “creativity” it can stand. And I’m not talking about Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Fannie, or Freddie. No, I’m talking about that eye-glazing, mind-numbing pile of rules called, laughingly, “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” (a.k.a. GAAP). “Principles” they are not. They are RULES. They’re rules because (a) accountants as a group have zero tolerance for ambiguity (try that on with “accounting creativity”) and (b) the tort bar has convinced jury after jury that auditing firms are supposed to have reviewed EVERY transaction at, say, General Motors or Enron before they issue an audit opinion. That’s financially untenable.

    And those who think GAAP is a disaster (that includes me) need to belly up to the IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) bar. IFRS is the accounting equivalent of Bernie Madoff on steroids. IFRS brings to us the same level of transparency as ObamaCare.

    To make a bad situation worse, the SEC and FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) are now hell-bent on “converging” these two sets of “standards”; they were during the Bush Administration, too, incidentally. Fasten your seatbelt to be lectured on the virtues of full disclosure by the likes of the Russians, the Iranians, and the Chinese. I can hardly wait. If you think that 2008 was hard on your TIAA/CREF portfolio, well, to borrow a line from the 1984 campaign of my favorite president, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

    So now a cadre of well-intended professors who are clearly tone-deaf about how the words “accounting” and “creativity” sound in the same phrase decides to put on a conference so dedicated. Besides being an example of people with far too much time on their hands, these folks make a good case for compulsory saliva tests for the poor dolts at Accounting, Organizations, and Society.

  • 2. Gary Peters  |  3 July 2010 at 3:28 pm

    “…poor dolts at Acct Org Soc.”…. hmmm, did you read the same conference call that Peter posted? As a “well-intended accounting professor..with far too much time on my hands,” I completely agree that GAAP and IFRS have major problems. However, the AOS conference does not seem to focus on financial accounting standards (i.e. GAAP and IFRS). The conference appears to focus on how accounting for internal performance (i.e. managerial accounting not financial accounting for external reporting) interplays with management decision making and creativity to help firms. Poor shot and bad form to generalize “these folks” as “poor dolts” when they are attempting to discuss something that has nothing to do with your rant.

  • 3. Warren Miller  |  3 July 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I respectfully submit that your reading of the conference’s theme and mine differ, Prof. Peters. I see nothing in the title of the conference that even hints at the “internal performance” on which you appear to hang your hat. It was the title with which I took issue, and I apologize for not making that more explicit. I think that even a management accountant would be hard-pressed to disagree, though, that the combination of “accounting” and “creativity” is generally a bad idea. (I should mention that I’m a Certified Management Accountant as well as a CPA.)

    I expect that management accountants will have the smallest representation of the disciplines represented at the AOS conference. That will happen because the Big Four accounting firms–whom I call “The Four W**res,” just so no one forgets whom we’re dealing with–have largely co-opted accounting education by funneling grants and easy consulting gigs to accounting professors in major universities. In return, those profs refer their best students to the accounting enterprises. There is, I thiink that even you would be hard-pressed to disagree, a disproportionate emphasis on financial accounting at the expense of its managerial counterpart. In the 27 years that I have been closely plugged in to the academy, I don’t recall seeing more than two (2) professors in any accounting department with expertise in management accounting; the number of CMAs on those faculties is well below the number teaching management accounting.

    The result is that undergraduates are brainwashed to believe that public accounting is the way, the truth, and the life. I’ve seen them become quai-suicidal at not getting a job offer from one of the Four W’s. And this despite the fact that something less than 40% of the membership of the AICPA actually works in public accounting.

    If the accounting profs at the forthcoming conference are anything other than management accountants, it will be because the financial accounting cadre moved in, most likely with help from the Four W’s. That, in turn, would pretty much torpedo the point you’re trying to make, I think. Why don’t we wait and see what happens?

  • 4. Gary Peters  |  4 July 2010 at 1:39 pm

    You are right that the title did not mention “internal performance” (that was my paraphrasing of the distinction management accounting from financial accounting). The conference title actually says “Debating the Link between Creativity and Control.” By the same token, it says nothing of financial accounting standards, nor does the conference description “hint” of financial accounting topics. Your credential of CPA and CMA is what led me to be so surprised by the blanket assesment of the accountants interested in AOS as dolts.

    I’ll not comment on the Four Whores argument because it has nothing to do with the AOS conference or journal.

    As far as the AOS conference and journal is concerned, I would ask that you read the conference call again, the journal stated mission, and actually look at the articles generally published in this journal. Then submit your evidence for why you think the folks at AOS should be considered “dolts” who have been co-opted by Whores.

    Here is AOS’s description of the journal:

    “Accounting, Organizations & Society is a major international journal concerned with all aspects of the relationship between accounting and human behaviour, organizational structures and processes, and the changing social and political environment of the enterprise. Its unique focus covers such topics as: the social role of accounting, social accounting, social audit and accounting for scarce resources; the provision of accounting information to employees and trade unions and the development of participative information systems; processes influencing accounting innovations and the social and political aspects of accounting standard setting; behavioural studies of the users of accounting information; information processing views of organizations, and the relationship between accounting and other information systems and organizational structures and processes; organizational strategies for designing accounting and information systems; human resource accounting; cognitive aspects of accounting and decision-making processes, and the behavioural aspects of budgeting, planning and investment appraisal.”

    For the record, my particular areas of academic emphasis include Corporate Governance and Risk issues that impact internal and external auditing. I am glad that AOS is committed to broadening the discussion about accounting issues (beyond just Financial Accounting topics).

  • 5. Warren Miller  |  4 July 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I appreciate your comments, Prof. Peters. You and I just see the accounting world very differently. I’ve taught CPAs in 30 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. You’ll forgive my immodesty if I say I think I know the breed awfully well. I’ve also served on high-level committees with shillers from the Four Whores. I don’t blame you for not wanting to comment. I suspect you’ve seen the truth of what I’ve described.

    As we both know, in any large distribution there are outliers. I am certainly one in the distribution of bean-counters. That is a major reason why I can see the breed so clearly. The idea that accountants would be qualified to comment on, say, corporate governance issues is close to laughable. I mean no disrespect there, sir. That you are qualified makes you truly exceptional, and I salute that. Certainly risk and governance are hot topics these days.

    In that respect, though, it’s worth noting, I think, that the former dean of the Stanford GSB, Robert Jaedicke, chaired the Audit Committee @ Enron. He was also a professor emeritus of accounting at Stanford, as I recall. He apparently saw nothing whatsoever wrong with CFO Andy Fastow doing business from separate entities with the corporation that employed him and paid him lavishly, even as he lined his pockets hosing down that same employer through the other entities.

    Shortly before his retirement, former H-P CEO Lewis Platt said the following:

    “Breadth is really important.There was a time when the CEO came up through manufacturing or finance.Today, I can’t think of a problem in the last year that what I learned in accounting alone helped me solve. All internal business problems are multidivisional. The person who can bring experience in marketing,manufacturing, finance and engineering to the table is far more valuable.”

    The problem I’ve observed over my 35 years as a financial professional is that the overwhelming number of accountants of my acquaintance are narrowly focused. Big-time. And I’ve met and taught thousands of them. I’ve also seen ‘em on the other side of the desk, when I was a CFO. I’ve hired them, and I’ve fired them.

    It’s worth noting that I’ve yet to read an auditor’s Management Letter that was worth the paper it was written on. The auditors talk about the client’s hairstyle when the client’s feet are on fire. Perhaps that’s because the auditors are more interested in client retention than in the true independence that would lead them to call spade a spade, even if it offended the CFO (heaven forbid).

    In my long experience, I’ve observed that there tends to be a certain type of personality that is attracted to accounting. (Of course, some might argue that “accountant’s personality” is an oxymoron.) Few accountants of my acquaintance would rather look forwards than backwards – I think that their preference for the backward-looking view insulates them from the ambiguity that they are ill-equipped to deal with. It’s the same ambiguity with that operating executives and good CFOs have to confront every day.

    In my experience both in the classroom and in business, accounting also tends to attract people who prefer the company of numbers to the company of people. Too many auditors of my acquaintance think all of the action in an audit is in the accounting department. There are exceptions, to be sure, and our small practice has been privileged to have as clients CPA firms whose audit partners were and are truly exceptional. But they are the exceptions, no doubt about that.

    Some years ago, I took an audit partner to breakfast in a city in Texas. With the client’s prior approval and knowledge, I wanted to pick his brain about a client whom he’d served as the audit partner-in-charge for over 20 years. I asked him the 35 questions I had prepared. He answered, “I don’t know” to 34 of them. I mean, the man knew absolutely nothing about his client, its competitors, its economics, or its marketing. Zilch. Unfortunately, he’s the mainstream, not the exception.

    I’ll take it on faith that you’re an outlier, Prof. Peters. And being an outlier myself makes me shy away from generalizing from your experience or my own. Yes, accounting academics have the freedom to pursue whatever research interests they want to pursue. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but tenure and academic freedom confer that.

    At least for now.

  • 6. Rafe  |  4 July 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Sounds like we have “normal accountants”, like “normal scientists” they work on the technical puzzles that are put in front of them and the context, the bigger picture is not a matter of interest or concern.

  • 7. Warren Miller  |  4 July 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Touché, Rafe! How’s the new P.M. doing in Oz?

  • 8. Gary Peters  |  5 July 2010 at 10:50 am

    You never answered my question as to why you would single out and disparage the people at AOS as “dolts” who have been co-opted by Whores. I’ll take it that you decided to not look at the Journal or the conference description.

    No doubts that the accounting profession has its fair problems and disrepute (name one that doesn’t), but that does not give license to disparage an entire profession or flame a specific group (AOS) that is trying to promote a discussion that is broader than the financial statements. Especially, a group that is trying to promote a discussion similar to the one you espouse via the Lewis Platt quote.

    My choice to not comment on your other observations (“Four Whores”, Laughable Accountants, Hair Styles, Enron, Personalities) is simply because it has nothing to do with the original blog posting.

    However I can’t resist your last observation. You comment that you are “not sure that’s a good thing” that accounting academics have the freedom to pursue whatever research interests they want to pursue. So, accounting academics should NOT have the freedom to pursue whatever research interests they find interesting? They should be told what to research? Does that apply to all academic fields? What would you suggest that we research? My guess is that it would be very similar to the AOS Journal description, the very group that you labeled as dolts with to much time on their hands.

  • 9. Warren Miller  |  9 July 2010 at 11:10 am

    Prof. Peters, I think you and I are just talking past one another. You have your views, I have mine. I think it’s worth noting, however, that, according to the data on your U. Ark. home page, I’ve spent far more time in and near academe than you have spent in and near the business community. That doesn’t necessarily make my comments better or more informed than yours. It does, however, give me a balance that few in either business or the academy can claim.

    In closing my end of this conversation, let me address your assertion that I seem to want to restrict research freedom. Not true. I do, however, believe that real-world accounting has big-time problems that have the potential to affect the standard of living of everyone who reads this blog, esp. those of us in the U.S. I’m talking, first, about that truly dreadful and impractical idea called “convergence” of GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles, which dictate financial reporting standards in the U.S.) and IFRS (international financial reporting standards – for those of you who might be wondering). As awful as it is, it’s an idea that both the previous Administration and the current one embrace with relish. There are so many things wrong with the idea of convergence in theory and in practice that I would think that researchers in accounting and financial economics would be banging away on those deficiencies in print, even if doing so risks putting them out of fashion with their starry-eyed idealist colleagues and also with the check-writing-to-academe Four Whores.

    My point in saying “I’m not sure that’s a good thing” in reference to accounting academics being free to pursue whatever research interests they care to pursue was no knock on academic freedom. It was, however, a suggestion that the economics of getting a college degree are increasingly unfavorable. The cover story in Businessweek last week addressed that particular issue. Yes, lots of people posted complaints about how the study was done, and those are all well and good. But those who teach 6 hours a semester and pursue research in areas in which they are demonstrably unqualified by either experience or knowledge are apt to find in the not-too-distant future that taxpayers and writers of grossly inflated checks for their kids’ college degree (to work at Starbucks??) are likely to put their foot down and demand either lower tuition rates or higher starting salaries. It will be easier to compel lower tuition rates through political processes, and that will result in a slimming-down of both numbers of people and per-capita income on college payrolls, at least those that are publicly funded.

    Either way, the result might well be that the days of research-what-strikes-one’s-fancy might be nearing sunset. A minimum teaching load of 9 or 12 semester hours would constrain the time available for intellectual fun and games and focus researchers to consider the ultimate scarce resource, time, in deciding how to spend the decreasing time available for them to do research. With luck, that would encourage them to be more productive and focus on what they know about rather than on what they’d like to know about or on something different just because it is different – “GRC” comes to mind. Better yet, they could contribute to the effort to preserve the economic growth that has brought the U.S. lower unemployment rates, greater innovation, and a higher standard of living than most other countries.

    Separately I’ll send you a paper I presented last spring on why IFRS is such an awful idea for U.S. companies. Of course, the Four Whores love the idea – think of the fees. And idealists, one-worlders, U.N.-worshipers, toadies, and others who’ve not spent a day in the real world also love it. Those of us who understand that cultures are different, that more-remote governance means more politics, greater corruption, and less substance, and that IFRS has real and major deficiencies in comparison to GAAP think otherwise. The headlong rush to IFRS is an ominous sign for the U.S. standard of living, and I, for one, wish that well-intended, well-informed scholars would do the right thing for your country and wade into this battle. It’s long past time that those who proclaim themselves “Citizens of the World” choose a country and support it. “Global citizenship” is as bogus, hollow, and meaningless a phrase as “global accounting standards.”

    That’s it for my end of this exchange. Good luck, sir. I fear that you and many others are going to need it in the years ahead.

  • 10. Gary Peters  |  10 July 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Warren, you are right that we are talking past one another. For the record, my simple point from the beginning, was that referring to the people at AOS as “dolts” was misplaced. I did not disagree with the assertions that GAAP, IFRS, or Academe has problems.

    I never criticized whether you are qualified to comment on IFRS or your views about IFRS. I actually agree with many of your concerns about IFRS, just not the AOS dolt comment..

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