THE IMPACT OF ACQUISITION
The consulting landscape is shifting. Please tell us more about your story, having recently joined Accenture; tell us about the upside (and downside) plus what this means for talent.
It used to be quite siloed in our industry and the huge amount of M&A has changed the innovation landscape a lot. The realisation of the need of the combination of strategy + creative + commerciality wasn’t one only Ben and I had all those years ago! But I think it is quite a different thing to try and marry entities that were until now separate both in terms of discipline but crucially because of culture. Observing that, I am very proud that we were created by a designer and a strategist together, from inception and it’s in our DNA and in everything we do – it’s not a forced fit.
Saying that, I think it’s easy for people to be very cynical about M&A. I can see how it looks from the outside. We made the decision very early on about why we wanted to do it. We decided not to go for PE or VC – we didn’t do it for an injection of cash. We wanted to do it strategically – to enable the business for its next phase – of growth, for opportunities for our people, for global scale for better reach. I think having that strategy made it very different for us. And we looked at it in exactly the same way we look at our clients – we wanted to work with good people that personally wanted to create change and impact in the world. We filtered ruthlessly to find that...I’m very glad we did otherwise I may not be smiling now!
BOW & ARROW
What makes Bow & Arrow different? From your culture and secret sauce, to your approach to solving for client challenges plus how you bring about change and drive growth.
How long have you got?? I’ll try and break it down...
1) Start-up teams: we work in multi-disciplinary start-up teams because we want all our people to be empowered and autonomous and to train them as leaders, and we want them to always think like a start-up, no matter our size or age – to be entrepreneurial, fast, nimble and hungry...because that’s what will enable the most innovative results for our clients. It also means there are no handovers or dropped balls, because this cross-functional team stays with the project the whole way through. Sounds simple enough, but the structure is quite unusual.
2) Values-driven business. We hold ourselves to account on our Values in terms of how we behave together and with our clients. It means we go into everything with a can-do attitude, we challenge ourselves and our clients continually, we don’t rest until the work exceeds expectations, and we drive towards growth not just in terms of results but in ourselves and in our clients as people – constantly learning and bettering ourselves. And crucially this is quantified – in the way we measure our projects (setting out tangible outcomes at the beginning of a project) and also in ourselves – we do our reviews half based on quantitative measures but also half on our Values and mindset.
3) I would say this ... but having half the company come from a design background not only allows creativity to permeate all our thinking but because we have designers involved not at the end but from the beginning it means we make our work tangible and real right from the get go. That means our clients get it much quicker and get excited because it’s real - not just theory or Powerpoints – which I think means we get to results more quickly.
4) A Millennial workforce. Now I know a lot of people will say they have this, but the difference is that we don’t hide them behind pool tables and nap rooms in the office...they are out in front, presenting their own work to our C suite clients. This is very different and even though some new clients may be surprised or unnerved by it at first, when they see the brilliance these people are capable of, they soon get how unique and incredible it is.
EDUCATING THE AUDIENCE
What advice would you give to those looking to break into innovation consulting? What would you tell your former self?
First – not all are the same. Look to what you want out of life and work and find the organisations that fit with what you want. Culture is as important as the work. It’s hard to speak for everyone – can only speak for B&A. We interview on mindset as much as skillset and we interview across the organisation and disciplines – so someone needs to understand, if not do, all the disciplines.