Where Consultants Should Contribute to Innovation

by Paul Hobcraft

Where Consultants Should Contribute to InnovationI have been concerned for quiet some time about the ‘state’ of the consulting industry when it comes to innovation. There are simply far too many out there offering pieces of the innovation equation. If I was a client I’d be getting fairly hacked off – with different people, different approaches, styles, methods of working and that nagging feeling it does not fit any bigger picture.

How do we resolve this?

Combining all these islands of knowledge into some form of combined force would be a healthy step but before we go there I was thinking about what does an innovation consultant contribute and where?

Here are my opening thoughts on this:

A consultant’s perspective for contributing to innovation activity

Constructing, implementing and sustaining the innovation process is made up of:

  • Supporting the capturing of ideas effectively both internally and externally of the client and then subjecting them to independent evaluations by the consultants own understanding and getting others involved (i.e crowdsourcing)
  • Defining, supporting and communicating the long-range business strategy and the links with the innovation process alongside the leadership of the business.
  • Understanding the innovation planning process and how to achieve input across the enterprise to align and effectively deliver. Providing the ‘glue’ to help make this work.
  • Identifying and encouraging individuals with entrepreneurial skills;
  • Indentify and empower individuals with the necessary skills to act as innovation champions, supporters or leaders in an emerging innovation process.
  • Characterizing and delivering the customer’s needs; incorporating market links into the innovation planning process, seeing these with independent eyes.
  • Establishing innovation metrics based on monitoring the broader benefits generated by the application of the innovation technology/ service/ product/ concepts developed and actively encouraging these to be adopted and, yes, actually measured.
  • Positioning the cost and contribution of innovation in perspective and necessary returns. Show the client his  ROII (return on the innovation investment).

There are clearly many more I expect one can consider but  my point is this, they all point to the need of taking a  more ‘holistic’ approach to innovation by consultants.

As mentioned above, this holistic approach seems to be missing from many of the service offerings made by innovation consultants today- that of a complete view on innovation to provide good advice that is timely and more complete than the fragmented messages offered by many today.

image credit: omnimap.com

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

No comments

  1. Great thoughts, Paul. Thank you.

    Since the result of innovation, in general, is making something better–modifying an existing model, product, team, theory, etc.–which kind of consultants are better for innovation consulting? visionaries? educators?
    those with tenure?

    Or does it require something else entirely?


  2. I have to disagree with your assumption that disparate pieces of the marketing equation should be combined into a single entity. In a mature market place, there is room for both the large, conglomerated innovation firms, similar to what you are describing, and the small, specialized firms.

    And I believe that even a small firm that purports to have innovation consulting expertise should be able to do all the things above. The difference is that a small firm would have a hard time starting innovation across a much larger company.


  3. I think what manufactures fear about consultants is will they be able to recoup their costs. Most times all a manufacture needs is a 10% to 20% improvement without spending on new equipment. Most manufactures know what they are doing and have made multitude of changes to improve production. What I find is the changes made, are not tracked for results, and are not followed by the employees, so what happens is a good change is thrown out. Bringing in a consultant who implements a completely new process may not be the answer. By bringing in a consultant that has done most manufacturing jobs and is there to analyze what they say they do, and look at what they actually do, can reduce cost and training time. A consultant that can set up systems to track their changes and provide tools to monitor what the employees do will not only improve what they do now but allow them to improve what they do in the future. Many times I have found a procedure saves as much time as installing new equipment. We need to use the skills that manufactures have and make sure everyone is on the same page. A consultant needs to listen not preach, and then tweak, not make wholesale changes. You have to maximize what the manufacture has, before you look at new equipment or employees.

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