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#703: Consultants Can Take a Few Tips From Sherlock Holmes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Isn't consulting the same as detective work? Don't we both look at the facts and try to "solve" the client's problems?

Consultants might want to learn how to play detective, using the techniques of the famous literary character Sherlock Holmes. 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 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, not being swayed by the preponderance of opinions as to the "obvious" solution.
  2. Employ deductive reasoning, based facts you have confirmed.
  3. Investigate all possibilities thoroughly, especially ones that at first seem implausible.
  4. Look carefully at the details, again especially at those details that may seem irrelevant.
  5. Look for connections, relationships, consistencies and inconsistencies.
  6. Ask lots of questions, and don't automatically accept the first answers you are given.
  7. Wear a disguise (OK-you might want to scratch that one!).
  8. Be relentless in pursuit of the solution.
The next time you are given a challenging question, remember to ask yourself the question, "What would Sherlock do? What processes would he use? How would he outsmart the problem at hand and not just follow well worn solution paths?"

Tip: 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.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  engagement management  learning 

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