3. Can I flip switches? Innovation consulting is for those with agility and stamina.
The best innovation consultants are radically nimble. This includes an ability to juggle multiple projects at once. “One of my favourite parts of Fahrenheit 212 is that I work on a few projects at any given time, so I spend my day thinking about different categories,” Kate said.
Agility also relates to one’s stamina. Those drawn to predictability and quick solutions may find the pure process of innovation exhausting. “Innovation is interesting work, but it can be very draining,” Tom said. “To make it in the industry, you have to love getting up every day not knowing what the answer to the question you left last night is.”
There will undoubtedly be moments that a consultant feels they don’t know how to solve a problem. For some, this could be debilitating. For the top innovation consultants, it’s a welcome challenge — dealing with ambiguity is the norm. “You have to be comfortable with the stress, able to think quickly on your feet, but most importantly, you need to be able to maintain the blend of creativity, curiosity, and strategic thinking that is required in this job, for any client in any industry,” Tom said.
Agility also means shifting to meet industry trends. For Tom, the biggest trend in innovation is consolidation. “Every consulting firm and agency wants to get into innovation, and they are buying and building their practices at an increasing pace,” Tom said.
As the industry gets more competitive, look for a firm that can differentiate itself. Some agencies move into more strategic work and some move toward execution and development. At Fahrenheit 212, “the biggest shift is our level of understanding of what innovation can do. We are getting more nuanced project briefs, working with more internal innovation teams, and seeing a faster pace of commercialization of concepts,” Tom said.
4. Am I courageous? Being creative requires confidence and skill building.
The top innovation consultants can take an idea through to commercialization and bring the right stakeholders along at key points in the process. This requires a tremendous amount of confidence. “By nature, everything in innovation starts as an unsure idea, and a big part of my role is being able to clearly articulate that thought, get others excited about it, and lobby with tenacity to push it forward,” Kate said.
A core trait of innovators is an ability to learn quickly, to gain an understanding of something that they aren’t an expert in. “More than anything, this requires soft skills — active listening, asking the right questions, determination, and drive. The hard skills come after,” Tom said.
Fahrenheit 212 looks for self-driven people. Kate and Tom seek people with traits like empathy, creativity, imagination, vision, and resourcefulness. But consulting firms also need to deliver commercial rationale and opportunity/growth to their clients — innovation must be connected to viable businesses models. Hence the need for a specific, albeit secondary, set of hard skills.
“I need to be able to analyze and understand a business quickly, to be able to speak the language of different groups within every client and to be able to quickly create consensus between these groups to move an idea forward,” Tom said. “Additionally, the ability to quickly create rough business models is always handy.”
5. Can I play nice with others? Innovation consultants know how to lean on the team.
After Kate completes her early-morning creativity sessions, she often finds herself collaborating with others on her projects. “Depending on where we are in our process, I spend the rest of my day researching, cracking consumer insights, articulating an idea and its roadmap to the future, or working with designers to bring concepts to life,” she said.
The phrase innovation doesn’t happen in a silo is worn, but true. “I don’t ideate in a vacuum, and the best ideas come from collaboration and debate with others,” Kate said.