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#443: Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2010
Consulting is like detective work in that the objective is to figure out the not so obvious "truth" from clues that are not so easily found. Can the principles of good detective work be learned from studying or just from experience?

Consultants might want to learn how to play detective! We are often asked to solve a problem, figure out what caused a failure (or success), etc. Think of yourself as that famous London-based fictional sleuth of the late 19th/early 20th centuries who was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The next time you face a quandary, think "What would Sherlock Holmes do?" He would:
  1. Keep an open mind.
  2. Employ deductive reasoning.
  3. Recognize that the premise or the "solution" presented by the client may not be true - or even relevant.
  4. Investigate all possibilities thoroughly - especially those that others have dismissed.
  5. Look carefully at the details - and keep good records of details you might beable to use later.
  6. Look for connections, relationships, consistencies and inconsistencies.
  7. Ask lots of questions.
  8. Trust your gut - but be able to back it up with facts.
  9. Wear a disguise (or maybe not).
  10. Be relentless in his pursuit of the solution.
Tip: Good detectives develop patterns - both recognized patterns for those people who hold the truths they pursue, and for their own process to pursue it. Consultants would be wise to consider the same approach.

P.S. Did you know that Holmes never actually uttered that famous line "Elementary, my dear Watson" in any of Conan Doyle's four novels or 56 short stories featuring the character? Holmes does say "Elementary" in the book The Adventure of the Crooked Man, but the famous line does not appear in its entirety in any of Conan Doyle's stories. The full phrase seems to have originated in either a subsequent film or theater play (the actual source has been long debated) based on Conan Doyle's original work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  innovation  learning  planning 

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