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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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#594: Commit to Act on Your Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 23, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2011
In trying to develop new consulting service offerings, my firm has a process to select the top three potential services and then focus our efforts on developing the best one of them. I would prefer to try a range of approaches, even if they were not as well developed when we took them to market. What approach seems to work best?

It is unclear which approach works best for a given market or firm capability but there is one principle that should help frame the question among your team. Most professionals, especially entrepreneurial consultants, are constantly generating ideas. These may be for a new services, knowledge management approaches, partnerships or alliances, practice management practices, billing practices, geographic markets, etc. The one characteristic we all share in this regard is that there are a lot more ideas generated than we implement.

You asked about moving forward with one well-developed idea vs. many partly-developed ideas. I suggest that the biggest cost in an innovative field like consulting is the many ideas that, while potentially significant for your practice, never get past the paper napkin stage. We either lack the energy, intellect, or will to take them to the next step and see whether they might work. In effect, we kill our own (possibly) best ideas.

Tip: Create a process to capture practice management, marketing or client service ideas and put them through a vetting process to see which ones are worth pursuing. Don't let any idea go to waste. If it is not for your firm now, keep it on file and reconsider later. Above all, demand of yourself what you would suggest of your client: impose some order and give your innovation a fair chance to create new value for you and your clients. Commit to act on each idea until you can safely eliminate it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  creativity  knowledge assets  learning  planning  your consulting practice 

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#541: How Well Does the Design of Your Meetings Produce Ideas?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 11, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 11, 2011
Most of my client work and briefing sessions are well-scripted and produce the intended outcomes but are not very productive at generating new ideas.

The one word on which to focus to induce creativity is "design." I infer that you have set up the right process to generate the work products you intend. However, if you want to assemble the right conditions for creativity, take a cue from Steven Johnson's work (and book) on "Where Ideas Come From."

Johnson's premise is that new ideas bubble up over time and as a result of connecting together partially formed ideas. If ideas are protected, isolated, and pressured to "produce results," they are effectively stripped of their creative potential. Ideas, like living organisms, grow best under optimal conditions and often don't do well when forced. In many cases, what we are told are blinding flashes of inspiration are, in reality, ideas that have been percolating for years.

Tip: You would find more idea generation, evolution and maturation from connecting people with ideas often and encouraging them to bring their thoughts, without pressure to produce, to address common challenges. Don't try to force creativity into the same sessions in which your goal is to plan work, document progress and report results.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  communication  consulting process  creativity  innovation  knowledge assets  learning  market research  product development 

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#464: Effective Consulting is Grounded in Scientific Principles

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 23, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 23, 2010
The more management books and articles I read, the less I am convinced there is such a thing as "best practices." Each book claims to have "the" answer and it seems every consulting firm is trying to claim it is the owner. Is it worth it to even try to weigh the alternatives?

It is true that there is a lot of "old wine in new bottles." It is interesting to see a consulting firm or a management academician describe a novel approach that is surprisingly similar to ones published decades ago, or at a minimum by practitioners of another discipline. To be fair, it is most likely that the authors just weren't thorough in their research. It may be that the idea was a bad one before and is bad now, or just was ahead of its time. There is no single "best practice" that fits all applications. Think of standing on one peak on a mountain range, where each peak provides a good view, but none is appreciably better than any other, just different for different reasons.

One way to evaluate whether a management concept even qualifies for consideration as a best practice is to apply the fundamental principles of scientific inquiry:
  • Understanding the world - Do you sufficiently understand how the world, and your client's business, works to see how the concept applies?
  • Respect for evidence - Where is your empirical data to show that the concept had the desired impact?
  • Logical consistency - Does the use of the concept and its outcome make sense, especially compared to alternatives?
  • Intellectual honesty - Did you arrive at the design and proposed application of the concept in an ethical and transparent manner?
  • Parsimony - Is it a simple, elegant and straightforward concept, and not a more elaborate version of an existing one?
You would be surprised how many seemingly (even award winning) management practices fail these simple tests.

Tip: Management consultants recommend and/or implement interventions that best improve the client's condition. However, even if you have successfully implemented such ideas before, you are obliged to put your proposed recommendations through the above test.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  creativity  innovation  learning  performance improvement  product development  recommendations 

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#415: Consultants Do Well to Think Outside the Plane

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 15, 2010
Updated: Friday, October 15, 2010
I read a lot of business and management books and journals to come up with new services for my clients and extend my practice. Yet, what I have come up with are services many others already provide. What other ways can you suggest I could "think outside the box" to get new ideas?

You may have just answered your own question. If you are reading the same journals and books as everyone else, you will come up with the same "solutions" they do.

What I am about to suggest is anathema to most left brain consultants. However, if you want to get good at something, then spend time with the people who are already good at it. If it is creativity you seek, then spending some time with artists (choose your medium) and cut loose from your same way of thinking.

Consider the papercut work of Peter Callesen . The challenge was to see what can be done with a single sheet of paper. The results are absolutely amazing - and each entry is different in its own way. After spending some time contemplating all the different ways the artist created something entirely new when presented with a challenging constraint, what methods will you use to create new services or approaches to your existing services?

Tip: See the incredible results of his creativity and his ability to see beyond the two-dimensions of a sheet of paper.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  creativity  innovation  learning  product development 

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