Gene Wolfe, science fiction writer, once said, “Genius lies not in doing something better than anyone else but in doing something no one else can do at all.” I read that as part of a book review by James Sallis on the new collection of short stories by Carol Emshwiller. There is ample evidence in the review that this collection is worth reading (not surprising if you are aware at all of Emshwiller’s work). However, what really stuck with me out of a six-page review was that single quote.
And it got me thinking: Can there be genius (as Wolfe has defined it) in internal audit?
I believe there are people working in internal audit who would be considered geniuses. (I have met a few. Some were successful; some were successful at being auditors, but not at being human beings; and some were not successful in any way, shape, or form.) But Wolfe’s comment is speaking to a different question than asking if geniuses can work in audit. Rather, it is about doing work that is recognized (maybe not immediately, but eventually) as genius. It is about exhibiting “genius”, being “genius”, experiencing “genius”, “genius” occurring. And I don’t think that means you have to be a genius, you just have to act like one.
So, let’s repeat the question: Can there be genius (as Wolfe has defined it) in internal audit? I don’t have a quick, handy, pithy answer to that one. But the reason I keep picking at this thought is that it scrapes away at one of the biggest complaints /issues /questions I have regarding internal audit.
Where is the latest, new thing in the profession?
I’m not saying we have to come up with an earth-shattering event that sweeps, Kardashian-like, across the news outlets. But I do believe that, within the next couple of years, something should happen that we can look back on and say “Yes, that was the point at which the audit world was no longer flat.”
(And, No, SOX wasn’t that shift. Although, I wonder if our current efforts to crawl out of the black hole of financial auditing SOX left as a legacy may not be the precursor to something new.)
I believe that, if we want our profession to continue to evolve in positive ways, then we should see evidence of its growth. The alternative, maintaining the status quo, is death.
Now, I don’t think such stagnation is the biggest fear our profession needs to address right now. We are changing. (If nothing else, we are changing as part of that SOX pendulum swing I mentioned earlier.) But if we are complacent within that swing - if we are unwilling to recognize that pendulums swing in three dimensions - then we may go the way of the dinosaurs, without the assistance of a passing asteroid.
“Genius lies…in doing something no one else can do at all.” We have the foundation for that; we are experts in areas where few others are willing to tread. All we have to do is go that next mile - go where no one else wants to or can go.
It is up to each of us to be that genius - to continually work at knowing all we can, learning all we can, and innovating all we can, so that, when all is said and done, we really have done something no one else can do.