The Challenges Being Faced by Innovation Consultants

Ignoring different voicesFrom my perspective I’ve been looking at a real challenge today, that many consultants offering innovation services are not providing real sustaining consulting value to clients, only ad-hoc services.

Unless this changes it will continue to erode the clients’ confidence in these service providers and they will be seeking increasing internal solutions to tackle their problems. I think if this trend continues it will be a mistaken course.

Consultants are not addressing many of the changes occurring and ignoring opportunities to adapt to different circumstances, they are simply not putting up a strong case of their engagement  by redesigning their business models or opening themselves up to different forms of collaboration.

In many ways, the consulting industry specializing in innovation is its own worst enemy.

It is highly fragmented, often highly specialized in certain innovation practices, and with much of the advice comes from a cottage industry of independent practitioners, caught up in executing and little time for advancing their own knowledge.

There is this sense that consultants are resolutely staying very internally driven, self-promoting, still trying to convey the story of innovation mastery, when clearly this is lacking in rapidly changing market and technology conditions and due to this staying ahead of the knowledge curve are actually failing the client.

Many consulting firms have spent the last decade trying to make themselves more efficient, going from craft work to selling one solution as a mass production to many, to yield ever-increasing fees, so as to gain a re-occurring return on a one-off invested solution. Innovation solutions simply need to be crafted to each set of circumstances mostly, in my opinion and that conflicts with this repeating model.

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Client Engagements – Full of Whipped Cream and Lumpy Gravy

So why did I call this blog post “client engagement- full of whipped cream and lumpy gravy?” Often both are ‘heaped’ onto the poor (final) solution found underneath the client- consulting engagement process. Both are layered on to mask the truth that the ones responsible don’t really understand how to make this process really work.

Managing innovation suffers from this an awful lot. We do need to understand all the ingredients that make up innovation, often we just try to’ top’ them off, failing to understand everything that needs to become part of the final solution.

I’m sure many of you have witnessed or been involved in poor client- consulting engagements. Often the root cause of poor end results within this process stems from a poorly structured engagement briefing process – my lumpy gravy. This creates the effect of creating many problems in delivering back not the best advice or solution to the real problem, offering up the lashings of whipped cream to cover up the bland solution dish underneath.

The engagement process does still rankle for me as it causes many of the difficulties and tensions within the emotions that many projects seem to swing through –  trusted and distrusted — loved and despised — all in equal measure where many variations could be reduced with a little thinking and challenging.

Avoiding some of the pitfalls

So I thought I’d take a  look at some of the problems within the client – consulting engagement process that can mask what is really lying underneath.

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