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3 Steps to Develop Big, New Ideas for Your Consulting Firm

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.

Adding 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.


6 Comments
  1. Sarah Sonnenfeld
    July 8, 2020 at 9:48 am Reply

    Always do helpful, David. Good kick in the pants reminder for to not just scan and share other’s good ideas (love this!) but also frame and bring them commercially to my clients (Oops! Right!).

    • David A. Fields
      July 8, 2020 at 11:10 am Reply

      Yes, Ma’am. You’re in an ideas business and, therefore, monetizing ideas is one of the skill sets you should constantly be honing. Great job highlighting that important message, Sarah.

  2. Uri
    July 9, 2020 at 11:30 am Reply

    Hi David,
    Thanks again for your thoughtful and clear summary of our daily challenge.
    How do I validate that my idea, which I think is the best, most creative solution, is indeed what the clients need and are willing to pay for?

    • David A. Fields
      July 10, 2020 at 3:26 pm Reply

      Uri, the answer to your question is right in front of you: ask your clients. (We also have an article coming up on adoption–stay tuned!)

      The C to a B to an A approach (more recently called “agile”) will serve you well: trot out your big idea in its minimum viable form and see whether it gains any traction. Then refine and improve iteratively with constant market feedback.

      Also, always make sure to share your big ideas here! Other readers and I want to know what you’re thinking, Uri.

  3. ANTHONY DADZIE
    July 16, 2020 at 6:53 pm Reply

    First time here as a startup consultant seeking mentorship and must say am impressed with wealthbank of knowledge.

    • David A. Fields
      July 16, 2020 at 7:06 pm Reply

      Congratulations on your new consulting practice, Anthony. You’re entering a terrific profession!

      Thanks also for contributing your reaction. There are fabulous people in this community who are willing to share, and on behalf of them and my team, we’re glad you’re part of the group now.

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