Most people hire consultants for their skills: design, deploy and analyze market research, build and execute market development plans, research competition and market landscape, build and execute business development activities. As a consultant, you sign the appropriate NDA and vendor paperwork, get a project description including formats and detailed instructions, attend a kick-off meeting, and regroup once the project has been completed. Sure, there are check-ins and Q&A sessions but mostly, companies pay consultants to go off and do the job and come back with their findings. But good consultants come with more than skills; they come with experience and networks and diversity of ideas. So, what if you used your consultant differently? What if you tapped into their diverse experience not just one facet of their skill set?
We admit it. We are fans of Facebook. But watching the amount of strategy meetings, retreats, team dinners and “we are changing education!” posts that pop up daily, it is clear that many big educational companies are actually becoming more insular. Ideas come from the same folks who vet them. Those same people debate the merits of their ideas with the same teams they always have. They share the same research, ask the same questions, build the same business models, and celebrate the same strategies; they gaze at the same navels. It is not to say that companies aren’t hiring smart people and that those people don’t have great ideas. They are and do. But avoiding groupthink and approaching ideas from a different perspective, requires, well, a different perspective.
Consultants can provide alternative futures. They can shape ideas by bringing analogous situations from other industries and markets to the table. They can open up opportunities for new partnerships with their diverse networks. They can connect ideas across business units and create competitive advantages that would be unseen from a single team’s perspective. An experienced consultant has “been there and done that” and has lots of lessons learned that they can bring to the table.
Next time you are in a meeting, look around. Who is helping to shape your ideas?