The word "innovation" gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean in the context of consulting? A starting point to answer this might be to ask what an innovative approach means to clients.
The way I see it, "innovative approaches" help clients by giving them new perspectives on their situation. These approaches allow consultants to find new solutions to clients' problems and see their situation in a new light. It reduces complexity and provides clarity.
This might sound simple, but we in consulting have yet a bigger challenge to address: How do you communicate that your approach is better if clients don't even know what they don't know?
You need to be able to show dream clients you understand their business and the challenges they face. And one of the best ways to do that is through specialization.
By focusing on a specific field and/or type of problem, consultants can develop a deep understanding of the landscape and the challenges their clients face. This allows us to provide more tailored and relevant solutions that address the root causes. And, when done correctly, specialization will strengthen your value proposition - helping you differentiate, generate demand, and win more engagements.
But there's a caveat here: While specialization might be the biggest source of innovative approaches, it's not by any means a guarantee new insights will appear.
Here's a natural specialization process that many consultants go through:
- Focus on a field or specific types of problems;
- Research their chosen specialty extensively;
- Build a strong network of contacts in their chosen specialty;
- Stay up-to-date on trends and developments in their chosen area.
Every specialist goes through #1. Some schedule time to do #2. But very few invest energy and money to do #3 and #4.
This is observational data, I have no numbers to support my conclusion. But it seems to me that consultants who are constantly engaging with peers and investing time to look at new developments are the ones who come up with many more "innovative approaches." Changing your marketing positioning is not enough.
Are you looking for a way to stay up-to-date in your industry? Do you have a system in place to generate innovative approaches? If not, consider implementing one - otherwise, your positioning as a specialist might not last long.