The following is a brief excerpt from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, my text on corporate innovation. I identify six archetypes you should watch out for, and the third is “The Consultant”. From Chapter 9:
At the other end of the scale (from the Gadgeteer), you have consultant-innovators. They don’t focus on the answer to the business situation (an answer that will, hopefully, be something innovative), and instead concentrate of defining the problem to be solved.
Now, of course it is necessary to have a pretty good definition of a problem before it can addressed in any reasonable way, but the consultant-innovator will write reports and requirements documents till the cows come home.
A key sign you have a consultant-innovator on your hands is that they will try to run ‘workshops’ to get a group understanding of a problem. They’ll attempt to produce facts and figures that describe it. They’ll always seek more data to clarify things. And then, when it comes right down to it, they won’t propose either a solution or a pathway to getting one.
The consultant-innovator’s hallmark is such a narrow focus on the business problem that they don’t ever get to using influence to push the next innovative thing. They’d much rather study the issues and create Powerpoint.
But the Consultant-Innovator is a deceptive creature, and that’s because (at the start at least), their workshops and problem definition work have actual value to stakeholders. Senior leaders call in consultants all the time in order to get independent views of their issues. Having an innovator do the same thing competently (probably for free) has an intuitive appeal.
Stakeholders, however, are unlikely to be thrilled with fact-finding that never terminates. That’s the danger of the Consultant-Innovator, and influence burning is the eventual result, as it was with the Gadgeteer.
I’ll post the remaining 3 archetypes over December.
Previous terrible innovators:
Reprinted from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, published by John Wiley & Sons. Copyright 2009.