Leadership / Management

The future of business: ‘Smart’ is out; ‘intelligence’ is in


Edie Weiner

Let's gaze into our crystal ball for a moment and ask this question: What does the future of business look like?

In a recent column titled, "The Next Big Thing," Bay Street Group's Rick Telberg says it looks ... well, smaller. Telberg cites a new report from Intuit and the Institute for the Future that predicts "a new economy increasingly composed of micro-businesses led by a much more diverse bunch of entrepreneurs." In Telberg's plain English, the report says small businesses will be "popping up by the millions, all of them in need of someone who knows accounting, finance, payroll and other aspects of business management and administration."

That's the good news for CPAs. The bad news is that the very role CPAs play in the future may change dramatically.

That's according to Edie Weiner. She's president of a "futurist consulting group" called Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc., and she spoke to a group of state CPA society representatives in Scottsdale, Ariz., recently about the future of professions. I'll spend more time in future posts discussing some of the points Weiner made in her thought-provoking talk, but I'll whet your appetite today with this one:

"In the future," predicts Weiner, "(consumers) will no longer pay for the 'smart' that professionals offer. What they will pay for is intelligence. Those two things are very different. 'Smart' equals learning. 'Intelligence' is the ability to figure things out."

According to Weiner, the "smart" that professionals offer -- say, for instance, a lot of the technical expertise that CPAs bring to the table -- will be available to everyone via software. CPAs of the future, she says, will be the business world's "detectives" who will use their intelligence to solve clients' problems.

So here's the question: If, in the future, everyone has access to everything you know, how will you evolve to make sure you remain relevant to your clients? Give us your thoughts by clicking "Comments" below.


Bill Sheridan