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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#616: Let Others Compile Your Content For You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 25, 2011
Updated: Monday, July 25, 2011
You often suggest that consultant need to expand our perspective by reading more widely than just about business and consulting. Does you recommendation come with some sources of current news and ideas in all these varies topics?

I am always open to your suggestions but I have two, one more global/conceptual and the other more about breadth/timeliness. The first is TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED is a set of conferences about new ideas, started in 1984, which has grown to include almost 1,000 videos (3-18 minutes) available online. TED talks encompass business, science, global issues, literature, economics, innovation and other topics. A TED a day is a great way to open your mind to new ideas, even new consulting markets and services.

The second is a compilation of blogs, organized into an easy to navigate hierarchical website called Alltop. There are hundreds of topics already on the site from which you can get a quick survey of news and ideas, but Alltop lets you create your own topic (how do you think the existing topics go there?). Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist for Apple, calls it an online magazine rack for your favorite topics (really a categorized RSS reader). What is great about Alltop is that it is not supposed to be a destination, but a set of doors to content you might not otherwise have found. You could create an RSS aggregator on your own but you'd miss out on a stream of new ideas and content sources discovered by others.

Tip: Don't work so hard to find content when there are good tools to help you compile it and let others help you in the process. The best thing about Alltop is that you can create your own custom page, like designing your own magazine. Look for these Daily Tips in the Consulting topic!

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  blogs  creativity  information management  knowledge assets  learning  market research  social media  technology  trends 

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#615: Take Responsibility for Being a "Myth Buster"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 22, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 22, 2011
There are times when a client holds an idea that is easily refutable but they won't let go of it and their resistance gets in the way of my helping them. They pay the bills but how do I convince them they are just hurting themselves?

Assuming you are "right" and they are "wrong" and that all would agree that your job is to provide independent, objective and useful information, then a "mythbusting" exercise is in order.

A myth is defined as a story that is regarded as true, although its origin is unknown and may defy logic or deeper explanation. As analytical and critical as consultants are, every one of us operates based on some myths. So do our clients. Sometimes a myth to our client is a known falsehood to us. Hopefully, the reverse is less true. Finally, some myths are so embedded in our culture, educational system and management lore (or are still being pushed by business schools) that it is hard to convince people to give up, even with data, logic and examples on your side.

It is beneficial to discuss, even before the diagnostic phase of your engagement, what assumptions your client (and you) hold about the situation, your approach to the engagement, and the likely path toward a solution. It is fair that the client be able to see what myths underlie your thinking and vice versa. If you work in an industry or across a discipline for a time, you will begin to see the same assumptions. In many cases, these myths are what may be holding back the industry. Your ability to articulate them may give you highly valuable insight into how to fix them. Possibly the worst thing you can do is to press ahead with your "solution" before you have gotten to the bottom of these myths.

Tip: Consider preparing short discussion briefs or (very short) presentations addressing the 5-10 key myths that affect your industry, your client's position (e.g., finance, marketing, R&D), or your ability to deliver services. Discuss and reconcile these at the beginning of each engagement, Your client may not agree with you but at least you will have surfaced the issues. Refine these with each client, incorporating your clients' perspectives and challenges. You will quickly build up a powerful bit of IP (or a book!) of unique value to your consulting profession and your own clients.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assumptions  business culture  customer understanding  intellectual property  learning  management theory  product development 

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#614: How Well You Write Depends on How Well You Read

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 21, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2011
The communication skills of our consultants differ widely and I think it is largely due to the types of interests, activities and reading each has outside of the office. Would it help (and is it appropriate) to encourage staff to spend more professional development and outside reading time on topics other than consulting?

Diversity matters, not just in gender, ethnicity and age, but also in language, mental models and communication styles. How your staff enriches and educates themselves has an effect on their communication abilities and value as consultants.

Every professional gravitates toward reading and listening to subject matter in their own discipline. Lawyers read about the law, plumbers focus on mechanics and fluids, and pilots immerse themselves in safety and aeronautics. Consultants, left to our own devices, naturally lean toward reading, watching and talking about business, management, employees, customers, processes, etc. Because this dominates what we take in, it dominates how and what we write and speak about. We are what we eat. Garbage in, garbage out. And so forth.

If we only had to communicate with each other, this might be OK. However, the purpose of our intervention with clients is to improve the nature and amount of how they interact within and without their organizations. This requires us to engage many different people, cultures, experiences, styles, perspectives and vocabularies. Directly or indirectly, many people will be influenced by what we say and write. If we can speak to clearly to others, we increase our value as consultants.

When you think about the books you will read over the next year (assuming you maintain a reading list), consider how much of that time you will devote to fiction, biographies, history, science, politics, law, humor, speeches, science fiction, mythology, journal and other types (yes, you can include training, speaking, analysis, marketing finance and other consulting-related topics). Style, vocabulary, literary constructs and metaphors vary widely among these genres and together give you a powerful set of tools with which to write and speak to your client and stakeholder audiences.

Tip: It is widely recognized that hobbies provide an intellectual counterpoint to our main profession and give us a richer perspective and ability to communicate. If you don't have one, I recommend you find a range of reading sources that will force you to think in new ways, develop new ideas and grow your language and vocabulary skills. Your ability to understand your clients and communicate will continue to grow.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  customer understanding  diversity  interpretation  knowledge assets  learning  presentations  professional development  speaking  writing 

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#613: Build Insight with a Library of Lists

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Part of my marketing is to monitor lists of companies in business magazines (e.g., Inc, Forbes, Barron’s) to see which companies are growing and which ones are in trouble (we can advise either). Are there other types of lists that go a little deeper that can help me better understand industry trends but are not paid company research (which we are glad to pay for once we identify specific targets)?

General business magazines will provide general information like revenues, growth, number of employees, etc. For somewhat more detailed information, you can go to services like Hoovers, LexisNexis or D&B that collect deeper industry and company-specific data. For full details, as you say, find a business research firm, for which you will pay for services.

All these sources do provide current information but something you may be missing is lists that are not focused on just size and current year data. Lists generated for a segment of an industry, focusing on a nontraditional aspect of a discipline or that provide historical data can provide terrific insights.

Each of us benefits by creating a "list of lists" specific to our industry, consulting discipline and type of organizations to which we want to consult. Fortunately, both the culture and the technology of the Internet have created for a lot of people the willingness to compile and donate such lists and reference works. Wikipedia (In most cases) provides significant insight and currency on topics authored by experts). specialissues.com has one such LoL (List of Lists). This resource has both of the criteria mentioned above, a different view than traditional lists and a lot of historical data. In some cases, "historical" here may mean outdated or with broken links, but you can easily find updated lists.

Tip: It is useful to build a library of references like these lists. Plan out a series of bookmarks and folders (or use the visual network tools referred to in yesterday's tip) to set up your own instant research library.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  knowledge management  market research 

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#612: Use Technology to Organize Your Knowledge

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
We have a client who wants to communicate the diversity of its various offices, its supplier network and other stakeholders. We want to make this available on their website in an organized fashion but there are some areas with a lot of content and some with a small amount, and a hierarchical structure is too cumbersome. What is a good way to organize this kind of disparate content?

Your question is a consulting task itself rather than a consulting tip because answering it requires more information about content type and volume, marketing intent, web capabilities, how the web fits into overall visibility strategy), how viewers are to use the data, etc. However, you may find some new technologies applicable, and these may be useful to your own consulting practice.

The usefulness of content hierarchies depends on a balance of volume, richness, depth and usefulness of content. Asymmetric content like you imply does make traditional lists or folders unwieldy. An alternative, available over the past few years, is visual network applications. Displayed graphically, these networks allow the user to interact with a network diagram to drill down or reconfigure content. Examples are Pearltrees and Spicynodes.

Pearltrees allows you to organize web pages in a network, with one main site (node) in the middle and branches you configure to other, related sites (the content of which you likely do not control). Intended to show how you organize your favorite web content, Pearltrees is a browser add-on to replace bookmarks and folders and (here is the powerful part) can be configured to connect to Pearltrees of others, much like is possible through delicious.

Spicynodes is similar but has static content entirely under your control. It is a way to visually organize information in a way that mimics the way you browse for content by exploring across links rather than looking at a series of folders. Both applications have galleries of sample networks. Both may take some learning but for what you describe, both would be powerful and intriguing ways to array information.

Tip: Consultants should keep current with these technologies for visual display of information for both their own use and to give a potent value added for their clients. Consider the relative impact of a few dozen static web pages and a more visual, intuitively navigated display like this. These also could be used to display information related to your engagement findings and recommendations. Lots of possibilities.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting tools  data visualization  information management  innovation  knowledge management  networks  presentations  usability 

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