How do you consistently create powerful ideas that stimulate every aspect of your consulting firm? Below, we’ll explore one, straightforward, reliable approach.
Have you ever read or heard an innovative idea and reflected, “Man, I wish I had thought of that?”
Ideas like employing artificial intelligence to shortcut your client assessment process, or building a consulting culture based on radical transparency, or whipping up chocolate pudding from avocados, cacao powder and dates.
Big Ideas are one of the three building blocks of your consulting firm and they permeate every aspect of your practice. *
Your consulting firm’s creative thinking informs your offerings, of course, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The output of your clever brain also affects your marketing, business development processes, delivery approach, infrastructure and even your culture.
Intuitively, you know that your consulting firm’s diet of Big Ideas is like your dinner choices: you can’t enjoy or appreciate new, palate-stretching fare every night; yet, a static menu grows stale and even your favorite dishes lose their luster if served too often.
Four Times Your Consulting Firm Needs New, Big Ideas
- When market conditions change.
- When business is way down.
- When business is way up.
- When business has been steady for more than a year. (i.e., you’re at risk of growing complacent.
3 Steps to Generating Big Ideas
1. Identify Stakeholders
A simple version of your consulting firm’s stakeholder chain contains four links:
Clients – Partners – Your Firm – Suppliers
Your clients (including prospects) and your firm are self-explanatory.
Partners include anyone you could work with to generate leads and connect to clients.
Suppliers include subcontractors and any other third parties you use to run your firm and create value.
You’ll find it helpful to identify specific, concrete examples of each stakeholder, particularly if you’re going to involve them in your Big Idea generating process.
While you may be tempted to focus 100% on your clients (because you’re a Right-Side Up consulting firm leader), also pull your way back along the stakeholders chain. You’ll find surprising riches by innovating with your partners, inside your firm and with your suppliers.
2. Determine Value Drivers
You can innovate along four, overlapping tacks:
Increase – Add more of something or deliver higher levels of a desirable outcome.
Decrease – Remove something or reduce the occurrence or impact of an undesirable outcome.
Improve – Transform something so that the outcome isn’t necessarily more or less, but is definitely better.
Create – Introduce something entirely new that adds value to the outcome.
Within those four categories, what are the specific areas you think are in need of some Big Ideas? You might find it helpful to refer to the handy, starter list of examples in “37 Common Sources of Value.” (It’s a Bonus Resource from this book.)
3. COMBINE AND BRAINSTORM
The four stakeholders and four value tacks combine to create 16 tightly-defined, well-directed backdrops for your consulting firm’s brainstorming efforts.
Vigorously shake each of the 16 combinations and see what Big Ideas fall out.
You could hold a two-day brainstorming marathon and dedicate one hour to each combination. Alternatively, you could devote an hour or two each day to a single combination, or you could schedule one ideation session per week over four months.
Welcome your stakeholders into the process. They’re smart cookies that may already be noodling the next Big Idea for you.
If you’re struggling to develop Big Ideas, add beets.
Try injecting an unexpected element into your thinking.
For instance in the 1970s, Final Touch fabric softener advertised, “With bluing for extra whiteness.” What? Add blue to make your clothes white? Didn’t see that coming.
More recently, I discovered that adding more raw cacao to my morning greens smoothie wouldn’t correct the unappetizing lichen color. However, plopping a beet into the mix produces a rich, pleasing, chocolatey hue. (Plus, beets are sweet.)
What completely startling addition to your approach or process would yield exceptional results?
Of course, you still have plenty of work to do after you develop your consulting firm’s new, Big Ideas.
Filter the results of your brainstorming down to one or two truly powerful concepts. Then test them, ensure they add value, craft clear communication, and develop methods to transform your ideas into actions and results.
For starters though, use the approach above to keep your firm-building stream of Big Ideas flowing.
I’d like to hear an idea you’re glad you thought of.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.