21/02/2022

MARCUS VAN VUGT

WHAT MAKES A GREAT INNOVATION ADVISOR?

ISO 20700 the Guideline for management consultancy services has been recently released. The standard aims to increase transparency and effectiveness for the client and the consultant. But does the use of a ‘standard’ limit or enhance the service offering? I would argue that the process of providing advice has not significantly changed over time. It is the array of tools, information and specifically data available that will continue to enhance management consulting. 

With more and more companies needing help to innovate and in commercialising ideas, we need to continue to push the boundaries on how MC’s provide advice. Innovation Consultants, as specialist MCs, use specific research methods to provide proven options in innovation practices. The increasing use of leading Data Science tools is setting the great Innovation Consultants apart. 

Evolution of Management Consulting

With more and more companies needing help to innovate and in commercialising ideas, we need to continue to push the boundaries on how MC’s provide advice. Innovation Consultants, as specialist MCs, use specific research methods to provide proven options in innovation practices. The increasing use of leading Data Science tools is setting the great Innovation Consultants apart. 

  1. Provide information to a client.
  2. Solving a client’s problems.
  3. Provide a diagnosis, which may need a redefinition of the problem. 
  4. Making recommendations based on the diagnosis.
  5. Assisting with implementation of recommended solutions.
  6. Building a consensus and commitment around corrective action.
  7. Facilitating client learning. i.e. Ensuring the client can exist without the need for long term consultants.
  8. Permanently improving organizational effectiveness. 

One of my early mentors gave me a copy of David Maister’s “The Trusted Advisor”. It provides a framework of engagement that defines a level of quality in each engagement and is as relevant today as it was then. 

Has the Consulting ‘Industry’ changed over the last 40 years? Based on the list above, I would suggest, that not a lot has changed in MC methods. I strongly encourage the use of standards to create clarity and transparency but will such standards enhance the advice? The big change in consulting has been the depth of research and complexity of data used to provide advice. 

In an easy to read yet highly in-depth assessment, Curuksu [3] highlights how the MC industry must adopt a better approach to using data to support advice. I would encourage anyone seeking to learn more about the intersection of Consulting and Data Science to delve into this book. 

What do Innovation Consultants do?

Innovation is a key capability of organisations looking to achieve growth. Innovation consists of 3 stages: Identify the opportunity, identify solutions and identify and create market mix and business models. 

Innovation Consulting as a branch of Consulting has grown exponentially. Since the early days of Christensens’ Disruption Theory, defining the market and ‘Jobs to be Done’ have led to creating specific commercial opportunities. Typically ICs extend the capabilities of a client with more than just advice-giving. 

Organisations today have access to a near unlimited array of data. Problems are defined using many more real-world variables. Each variable will have local and global data to support hypotheses and findings.

Problem definition is much deeper than it has ever been and is supported by real-world data. Despite this, most organisations still only delve into their own data. Important in assessing the market is that you need to understand both the supply AND demand side. 

The challenge for Innovation Consultants is to be able to ‘translate’ this extensive data into meaning and action. The tools and market validation techniques originally created at Intel continue to provide a great opportunity to determine the supply side in today’s market. Recognising that your innovation may not be unique and forms part of a global industry of competitors allows the IC to target the market with a more reflective view on where gaps in the market exist. Similarly delving into the ‘Job to be Done’ allows the IC to create market positions to improve your chance of success against competitors.

The extensive nature of social media and website analysis gives an organisation a picture of what customers are feeling about specific problems. A rapid assessment of what searches are being undertaken and what sentiments are expressed allows you to target your product to a specific and expressed need. 

 

So What?

Ensuring that your innovation consultant provides you with detailed supporting data to support advice is key to improving the decisions that you will be making in bringing your innovation to life.  

The approach to consulting continues to slowly evolve, but we can all surely agree that the use of data science techniques to support assessment and design of your innovation will make sure you get value from your Innovation Consultant.