Clients hire your consulting firm in part because you know more than they do. You’re an expert. Wise in the ways of management, marketing or the musk beetle (or whatever your area of expertise happens to be).
How expert are you, though, and what are you doing to continuously upgrade your knowledge?
Domain knowledge is one of the three ingredients you mix together to whip up a consultant. (The others are consulting skills and s’mores.) Examples of a domain include: an industry, function, methodology, technology platform, geography, or particular situation, problem or aspiration.
New consultants at your consulting firm often need to polish their consulting skills and supplement their domain knowledge. Plus, of course, newbies need to learn your consulting firm’s IP and family recipes inside and out.
Ideally, you’ve developed onboarding and training materials to fling newcomers up the capability curve.
After that initial bolus of learning, however, the vectors of learning in many small consulting firms narrow down to one: experience.
Similarly, as a consulting firm leader, you’ve gained the lion’s share of your valuable wisdom from experience on projects.
Experiential learning is huge. It’s real-world, and directly relates to your clients’ needs.
It’s also insufficient. And, by the time you accumulate a critical mass of experience, much of it may be obsolete.
You owe yourself, your consulting firm and your clients constant advances in the domain knowledge of your consulting firm. Advances above and beyond your takeaways from consulting engagements. Therefore…
Commit to accomplishing two tasks that will level up your consulting firm’s domain knowledge:
Task 1: Create a Domain Knowledge Ladder
Your consulting firm’s Domain Knowledge Ladder can roughly imitate the academic hierarchy:
Primary, secondary, bachelors, masters, doctorate, post-doctorate, legend, Nobel prize, Tony Stark.*
Specify the knowledge, concepts and domain details consultants at your firm must know and/or master to graduate to the next level.
Note that the upper rungs of your Domain Knowledge Ladder must absolutely transcend your own, personal, domain knowledge. What do you want to learn within your domain of expertise that you don’t know now?
Pulling together your curriculum delivers three benefits:
- You’ll own a comprehensive training program for your consulting firm;
- You’ll spotlight rust spots where your domain knowledge has become dated;
- You may identify areas you can outsource because they only require lower-level knowledge.
Task 2: Identify Sources of Knowledge
Specify the sources of knowledge for each step on your Domain Knowledge Ladder. This is particularly important at the upper levels, where you’re stretching the bounds of current knowledge in your area of specialty.
On the lower rungs of your Domain Knowledge Ladder you can leverage a full range of resources, including:
Books, published studies, peer groups, courses (from a variety of sources), primary research, podcasts, simulations, shadowing* and client advisory boards. Plus YouTube, mangas and the source of all knowledge: Wikipedia.
At the outer edges of domain expertise, learning can be harder because there’s no one to teach you. Experiment and conduct research with the expectation that not all of your consulting firm’s efforts will produce valuable, new understanding.
By the way, diverse, outside-your-domain learning you bring to bear on your specialty also matters. Broadening your thinking and connecting unrelated ideas can help your consulting firm develop thought leadership.
However, breadth of knowledge is not a substitute for depth if you want to command your field.
What are you doing to continuously improve your personal, and consulting firm’s domain knowledge?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.