I’ve been taking a lot of calls this week from member CPAs facing disputes over client record and confidentiality matters. Dealing with a difficult communications breakdown, one member grumbled “Do they think the “P” in CPA stands for psychic?” Reflecting on his comment, I’m thinking that in the public’s collective mind, the answer might be “Yes.”
The AICPA CPA Vision Project defined CPAs as:
… the trusted professionals who enable people and organizations to shape their future. Combining insight with integrity, CPAs deliver value by:
- Communicating the total picture with clarity and objectivity,
- Translating complex information into critical knowledge,
- Anticipating and creating opportunities, and
- Designing pathways that transform vision into reality.
I highlight the words that illustrate the profession’s own use of skills of perception regarding the future. I believe the public does have an expectation that CPAs possess a level of intuition to allow us to convert information to higher value knowledge that helps businesses prepare for the future. The marketplace expects us to be knowledgeable about the future before it is, and assumes that CPAs serve a role in designing pathways to that future. (Sound like professional intuition to you?)
Examples of intuition in practice include not just analyzing information in a linear manner based upon known rules, but also the need to detect unique patterns in disaggregated bits of information, or to sense what pieces of information may be missing. In a world where information in real-life situations is more often chaotic than logical, intuition is a critical skill for CPAs.
Intuition compliments reason in order to provide the insight that the public expects from us as trusted advisors. Colin Powell comments in My American Journey, “Dig up all the information you can, then go with your instincts. We all have a certain intuition, and the older we get, the more we trust it…I use my intellect to inform my instinct. Then I use my instinct to test all this data. Hey, instinct, does this sound right? Does it smell right, feel right, fit right?”
If intuition is a critical skill for CPAs, is it something we can hire for or something that can be developed through training? In a two-part series on “Intuition in Business,” Dr. Lynn B. Robinson suggests that intuition can be learned. (The Powell quote was originally sourced from her paper.)
Whether a hunch, feeling or instinct is a result of learned experience or genetic cognitive skills, it helps CPAs find answers more quickly. As the world of accounting shifts further toward the needs for professional judgment, professional skepticism, risk analysis and a reliance on principles in the absence of rules, intuition will be an increasing important skill for tomorrow’s CPAs.
Maybe I’ve found a new market niche for the first CPA/Psychic!