According to Harvard Business School accounting professor, Srikant Datar, anyone can learn to be a design thinker and innovator. Datar doesn’t believe in an innovative gene that we are born with, but rather anybody can learn to be innovative if given the proper tools.
I experienced this firsthand as a participant in a workshop that Datar teaches at Harvard Business School. I have seen my peers, business professors from Latin American, transformed from conventional to entrepreneurial thinkers over the last two days.
Datar challenged us to think differently. He gave us tools, one-by-one, to break us out of a fixated mindset into our new found creativity. One attendee joked (or perhaps he was serious) that he is quitting academia to become an entrepreneur. With just two days of training, our group has developed many new products and ways to improve processes.
This workshop has probably been one of the best learning experiences of my professional career. As a result, Datar and I will be writing an article on "Design Theory" in the near future to share this information with accounting professionals who want to learn new ways of thinking and solving problems.
I found myself wandering around Harvard Square today after snow delays at the airport and lost luggage. I ate a yummy tofu and black mushrooms dish for dinner. I pinched myself wondering how does someone from southern Ohio end up at Harvard?
It is exciting to be in Boston, reminding of the urban life I once knew as a young child living in Chicago. My last 40+ years, however, has been spent living in Ohio, where the major form of transportation is in a car. Folks look a little thinner in Cambridge. I figured its from all the walking, and I hope it works to my advantage.
I began writing to professors to see if I could sit in some of their classes. I wanted to learn about design thinking, and wrote to Srikant Datar, an accounting professor who teaches the class at Harvard Business School. He invited me to a session he is teaching this week to Spanish and Latin American Academics. Wow, I am looking forward to attending. I can hardly believe it!
Melissa Ludtke made me listen. You would too if you heard her speak.
Melissa Ludtke was a 26-year-old journalist for Sports lllustrated, when she found herself barred from the New York Dodgers locker room during the 1977 World Series. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn gave her two
reasons. The players’ wives needed to be consulted first and, if a woman was allowed in the locker room, the players’ children would be ridiculed at school.
Ludtke and Sports Illustrated sued Kuhn for equal access to male athletes in 1978. A US District Court ruled in favor of equal access, allowing female journalists into locker rooms. “It was a lawsuit with a ripple effect,” Ludtke said. She stated that she felt blessed for the opportunity. This event opened the door for women in sports journalism and made Ludtke a national figure.
When I think of the 1970s, I envision Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and other women marching, chanting, their fists waving in the air, demanding equal rights. I figured Ludtke to be a radical, bra-burning feminist before our interview. I didn’t expect her to come across as a pragmatic, even-keeled woman. She spoke with the objective tone of a journalist. Her demeanor wasn’t warm or cold, but matter of fact. She didn’t appear to be one to stir things up. “I didn’t think of calling my editors to raise a stink about it at that point,” Ludtke responded when asked by the Washington Press Foundation in 1993 about the evening she was barred from the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
Ludtke began at Sports llustrated after graduating from Wellesley College in 1973. Editors inspired her and believed she could succeed. Ludtke stated that without access to players in the locker room, she could not do the work she wanted to do.
Ludtke, 62, now with gray hair, looks a lot like her younger self at 27. She still has a girlish look about her – round face, bangs and a makeup free appearance. She lives life with purpose. “I do spend a lot of time
thinking about girls’ lives and I think a lot about them in countries other than America,” Ludtke reflected. The fame she experienced in the 1970s didn’t scathe her, but gave her a platform to speak to women in other professions and countries.
Ludtke is writing a memoir to help girls prepare for the future. “Thankfully she [her daughter, now 17] has so many more opportunities and sees so many fewer barriers than I saw at her age to imagining almost any life she
would want to have,” Ludtke said. “But sometimes I get frustrated … by the fact that women, young girls … don’t necessarily understand what it took to give you all these opportunities, Ludtke stated, “This is a contemporary history.”
History will recognize Ludtke because she did not follow the pack. “The secret for me is to build up
your skill level with as much as of a foundation and then be willing to challenge yourself to take those skills and to put them in a different arena,” Ludtke said.
“There are moments when you begin to doubt that you can do it, but then there are moments, as they say,
people reach out their hand and tell you how and pull you along,” Ludtke said. Persistence and patience have been Ludtke’s magic. She has countered life’s challenges with resilience, serving as a role model for others, especially for aspiring female professionals like myself.
I, a seasoned accounting professor, started taking a journalism class at Harvard to become a better writer and hopefully blogger. In the process, I found amazing similarities between the disciplines of accounting and journalism. Both are self-governed with an obligation to the truth. According to The Elements of Journalism (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007), the following are some of the basic tenets of journalism:
1) Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
2) Its first loyalty is to citizens.
3) Its essence is a discipline of verification.
4) Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5) Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
One could easily, replace journalism with the word accounting as I have done below. For example,
1) Accounting's first obligation is to the truth.
2) Accounting's first loyalty is to the public (Article II - The Public Interest).
3) Auditing's essence is a discipline of verification.
4) Accounting practitioners must maintain an independence from those they audit (Article IV - Objectivity and Independence).
5) Accounting practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
In fact, similar wording are used in the AICPA's Code of Professional Ethics (references provided above). I think
few would debate that all accountants have an obligation to act ethically. CPAs must pass an ethics exam and take continuing education on ethics to maintain their licenses.
I was struck, however, by a few words in the journalist's code that we in accounting might consider adopting. The first stand out word is "truth." The AICPA Code might define this as "substance over form" or as our auditor report refers to "fairly present, in all material respects." The second concept that stood out to me was the notion of "personal conscience.” The Code mentions "integrity, objectivity and due professional care," but not "conscience." I like the fluidity of the idea of "personal conscience." To me, it may even serve as a higher standard than meeting the rules of a Code.
Here's an example of what I am talking about. The tax textbook I use asks students if an accountant can keep a client if the client will not correct a prior year return that has an error. Almost all the students will say, "No." The Code of Professional Ethics," however, states that the accountant could withdraw, but can also can keep the tax client as long as the error does not effect the current year's filing. Thus, an act that would go against most individual's consciences, the Code says is permissible. Thus, are we teaching good people to become bad people? Shouldn't the Code take in consideration the notion of conscience?
What do you think about this idea of personal conscience and the AICPA Code of Professional Ethics? Like journalism, should accounting practitioners have an obligation to exercise personal conscience?
Education par excellence: Developing personal competencies and character through philanthropy-based education
Yeah! Our article was published in The Journal of Accounting Education. My co-author, Shirine Mafi, and I had been working on this project for three years now. We felt this project had an impact on our students for the good, but we couldn't show that. We tried several different types of surveys, but to no avail. Then, one day I asked Adam Grant, a faculty member at the Wharton School of Business, for advice. I told him my dilemma, and he told me to look for a change in how a person views him or herself. Thus, we looked at "before" and "after" data, and behold, we found this change. In addition, we gathered qualitative feedback and a satisfaction survey. Upon analyzing this data, we could provide support for the efficacy of this project.
The Philanthropy Project emphasizes experiential learning and is designed to promote the learning of discipline-specific concepts while simultaneously addressing the social needs of the surrounding community. In the Philanthropy Project, students receive money to distribute to not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) based on a competitive proposal process they help to develop and administer. A distinguishing characteristic of this project is that it is not a simulation. Students make real decisions that have immediate consequences to certain groups of people in their own communities. They have to make difficult choices by allocating scarce resources to some agencies and saying ‘‘no’’ to other agencies, all with worthy causes.
The philanthropy project was administered in accounting classes at both a regional public university and at a comprehensive private university. At the conclusion of the project, students reported experiencing the benefits of collaboration, communication, conceptual learning, community engagement, and character development. Students also learned about not-for-profit financial statements and related economic measures. A timeline of activities, grading rubric, and templates are provided to aid in the adoption of this project by other accounting educators.
The project was designed to have students take ownership and display pride in their participation in the project. Upon hearing virtuous leaders of the NFPs speak, students commented how they learned that one person can make a major difference in the surrounding community. Other students indicated that they planned to participate in philanthropy in the future. Supporting student comments included the following:
‘‘We can all make a difference in the world. It is not someone else’s job. We are all responsible for our world.’’
‘‘It was great to see how we could make a difference in these small organizations. I was happy to see how all of us could have a big influence on the lives of those who need help the most.’’
By elevating the good, people can be changed and helped. This not only includes those receiving the funding, but also those giving the funding. To me, this was the project's greatest contribution.
(A copy of the article is on my website, http://www.marshahuber.com)