Learn like an entrepreneur

If the way we were taught no longer serves us, let’s look to entrepreneurs for an alternative. According to the Heavy Chef Foundation’s research into entrepreneur education, almost nine of ten (87%) entrepreneurs learn through experience and trial and error. 69% of entrepreneurs self-direct their learning and two-thirds described themselves as always-on learners, acquiring knowledge in short bursts. 63% said that second to trial and error, they learnt the most from other entrepreneurs.

Sources: 2019 Heavy Chef Entrepreneur Education Survey & 2021 Heavy Chef Entrepreneur Education Survey


Counting on tomorrow

Does it feel like people stop talking about entrepreneurship and innovation the moment you walk into the room (or join the Teams call)? Do they still buy into the outdated and debunked stereotype of the accountant?


Obviously, the stereotype that we’re boring, conservative bean counters is complete nonsense. As accountants, we bring a range of expertise, specialities and approaches to our work, and traits such as reliability, accuracy, ethical behaviour and dependableness are essential to the success of any business. But, like all professions, we need to ensure we actively support agile and resilient organisations that can turn the current unpredictable business environment into opportunity and growth.


It's important that entrepreneurship and innovation – which can unlock this opportunity and growth – don’t remain the preserve of a discrete group of blue-sky thinkers, separated from the day-to-day business with their bean bags, coffee pods and MacBooks. Today entrepreneurship and innovation need to scale across the organisation and be embedded in everything we do. Including how we forecast, budget and plan.


So ask yourself this, then: if we accept that accountants are not necessarily the stick-in-the-mud polar opposite of a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, are we doing everything we possibly can to develop these capabilities?


One practical way we should be contributing to our organisations’, and clients’, success is to cleverly harness continued education.


We can start to do this in two ways. Firstly, do you think about ongoing learning as a checkbox exercise or do you use it to learn about technology and the ways of working that we need to succeed in the future? Things like how we can do things better and faster? How can we get improved information to make better decisions? Our learning shouldn’t be boxed into “accountancy” related topics. Being informed and inspired by other professions and ways of thinking is key to the flexibility and ability to adapt in the face of the unknown. Perhaps CA(SA) should expand its view around suitable relevant continuing education.


Secondly, are you tapping into the type of learning that will equip you for the future? How we learnt in the past – classroom-based rote learning with little real-world application – is singularly unsuitable for the modern business world and its unprecedented levels of change (think about the jobs that exist today that weren’t around five or ten years ago).


This ongoing learning is what is going to help give us, and our organisations, the competitive edge by allowing us to continue adding value in a new, unpredictable, constantly shifting environment. We need to continuously redevelop our core strengths to ensure we remain relevant tomorrow.


As published in ASA Magazine - April 2022