The stories of how people chart their paths into innovation is rarely linear or at first obvious, but when you unpick the experiences, interactions and learnings, there is always a natural desire to solve problems or drive change. More than that, the desire to find problems! This is what makes the innovation space so exciting – it’s eclectic with diversity of background and experience. Whilst becoming more of a ‘career path’ today, it has been a space that recognises the value and importance of different perspectives and experiences.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE INDUSTRY: What does the current state of change mean for the innovation consulting industry? And how do you see the service of innovation consulting changing? What do you expect to see next? And who will succeed and fail?
I think innovation consulting is now about two things.
First, it's about evidencing change by making strategy tangible. Your strategy should actually be about what's next, not what's now. That can be very intangible for people, so innovation is a process to actually ensure that the strategy feels very tangible for every single person who touches it, internally and externally.
The second thing that I think innovation consulting is now about is delivering a team - the people who have the values, behaviours and the mindset to continually drive innovation for a department, a business unit, or an organisation.
Both of these are different to the old model, where people used to think about innovation as always delivering a thing (a beautifully-designed product, for example), or a process (agile, lean, or whatever…).
Tangibility feels more important than ever in the world of consulting. Building sustainability and capability feels like the real shift, in that the thing, or the idea, is no longer enough.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the big management consultancies gobbling up small design agencies. Both are doing incredible work. But usually what happens is that the small firm is acquired and then bolted on, and it feels pretty cosmetic rather than a real value add. Many management consultancies still have old habits where they deliver a solution – often through a deck, report or framework - and leave.
I don’t think that this is the time for decks as a deliverable anymore. We’ve got to go further, and help build the teams that can actually deliver continued innovation.
In addition, the innovation consultancies that are going to win are the ones who can help their clients on the tech side without locking them into a single solution. Vendor lock-in is a real problem for clients as it makes it incredibly difficult to disentangle themselves from their consultants’ tech infrastructure, whilst also racking up a multi-year bill for the pleasure. To me, that feels very disingenuous. Our job should be to have the best interests of our clients at heart.