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Are consultants innovative geniuses or just lucky?

There are many definitions of being innovative but in the world of the consultant this one works for us: ‘Applying ideas, processes, products or procedures, which are new to the people and places where you are introducing them’.

Most people who consult in technical fields can come across as fixed on detail and accuracy and therefore not considered innovative, but if we truly understand what innovation is then it would be much more accurate to describe all consultants as innovators. Using the definition above, innovation is about improving on something that already exists as opposed to invention which is developing something that didn’t exist before.

Here’s a brain teaser to illustrate a point:

Below are nine dots arranged in a set of three rows. Your challenge is to draw four straight lines which go through the middle of all of the dots without taking the pencil off the paper.


To complete this task does take a change in the mindset that you would usually use. It is no different with problems that arise as a result of a contract not meeting its obligations:

Hard work is not the solution

  • Repeating the same wrong process again and again with more vigour does not work
  • You can be very close to a solution while not getting any closer to it
  • Thought is the solution, physical hard work alone will not work

    The consultant comes into a strange workplace and they are not bound by the same rules as the employees, so they can

    Investigate the boundaries

  • What are the boundaries which the solution must fit into?
  • Are the boundaries your own perceptions or reality?
  • What are the possibilities if you push the boundaries?
  • What are the benefits of small boundary changes?
  • With these changes in thinking they can find solutions that were always there but invisible to the eye.

    There are many jokes aimed at consultants: ‘give a consultant your watch and he will tell you the time’ – but there is so much more to it than that. Yes they do need to know the facts as you know them, yes they do need to know what you have tried, but and a very big but, they are not you and they don’t think like you because they don’t have your experience. The chances are that you will have already come up with the obvious answers to solve the problems so they need to bring something fresh to the problem. They have their own experience which they can apply to your issues and with what can seem like very little effort, come up with solutions that solve the problems and deliver the results.

    Penny Whitelock, August 2016


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