This show might come off as controversial to those who are innovation consultants. However, these are my personal views on the subject. Consultants can have a significant effect on an organization for better or worse. We will discuss innovation consultants and why I believe 80% of them are not worth the money.
A consultant has some expertise and is getting paid for sharing it with a client. I started my career early on doing consulting for a company called CSC. I was working heavily in the wireless and mobile arena. In my case, I had very deep expertise in the mobile space before being a consultant.
Most people hire consultants because they lack expertise in specific areas, and this effort is becoming ever so popular in the innovation space. I get calls all the time from people asking for recommendations on consultants. Based on what I have observed, 80% of innovation consultants are not worth the money. Why am I saying that? You don't become a driving instructor after reading a book on how to drive cars. Instead, you drive the car and then teach others how to do it. There are loads of innovation consultants out there that have never actually done it.
Today, I'm going to share the four questions you should ask innovation consultants before hiring them. Firstly, “is this innovation consultant a proven innovator?” Like innovation, you can't teach people how to drive if you haven't done it before. You need to ask if the consultant has led innovation for organizations known for innovation success. Have they been a CIO, led innovation teams that have delivered, or are they credited for creating successful innovations in the marketplace? Does the industry recognize them for innovation leadership? If they don't check these boxes, they try to teach how to drive without ever doing it themselves.
Question number two is, “Who else have they been hired by?” Assuming they have the expertise and have successfully done innovation, you need to look at who has hired them. If they are endorsed by those who are known for their innovation efforts, they will have more credibility. It's a good sign if a company, known for its innovation efforts, still felt the need to hire this person. If they have zero experience working with a company with an innovation reputation, that is not necessarily negative, but is something to look at.
Another thing to look at is whether they completed any projects for their clients and have been brought back by their clients multiple times. This precedent shows that the consultant does excellent work and is getting the company success. The last thing to look at is whether you can call up the clients they mentioned in their proposals or pitches. If the consultant hides the company name from you but mentions their work, I count it as a negative mark.
Despite all that I have said, don't hire someone solely because they have done work for a well-known company. Dig deeper and validate whether they did the work and were successful or are lying about it. It amazes me how many organizations fail to do reference checks for employees and consultants. If you choose the wrong innovation consultant, your credibility goes down, and you can turn your organization off to innovation.
Evaluating a Consultant's Success
The third question to ask is, “What about this innovation consultant attracts their following?” It is essential to evaluate why a successful consultant is successful with its clients. Firstly, look at the number of clients they have worked for/use their process or framework and whether they can prove it. An example of this is the FIRE framework, where about 2,000-2,500 organizations use it. Secondly, evaluate whether or not they are willing to share the details of their approach. I am a big believer in paying it forward and giving it away. With that being said, I don't use this to make a living while most consultants do.
Your organization is unique, and you need to know that a consultant's approach will work for you and your organizational needs. If you bring in a consultant that is not a match, you will run into some big problems.
Ask an Innovation Consultant
Question four is, “Can you adapt and adopt the approach from the innovation consultant?” You would not believe how hard this is to do. When hiring an innovation consultant bringing an approach to the table, it is crucial to know where they stand. Do you get granted the rights to use their method within your organization or offer a training class? Are they willing to adapt it to your organization's culture, approach, and language? An example of this is how Kroger implements the FIRE framework while using their own Kroger language.
I started today's show off on the premise that 80% of innovation consultants are not worth the money. Let's recap the four questions you should ask an innovation consultant before hiring them:
- Is this innovation consultant a proven innovator?
- Who has hired them?
- What about their innovation consulting attracts a following?
- Can I adapt and adopt the innovation consultant's approach to my organization?
If you are looking for an innovation consultant and aren't so sure about it, drop me an email or hop over to The Innovators Community for feedback from other innovators and myself.
If you are interested in the FIRE framework for your organization, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.
To know more about why many innovation consultants are not worth the money, listen to this week's show: Why 80 Percent of Innovation Consultants Are Not Worth the Money.