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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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#714: Balance Your Intuition and Thoughtfulness

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 8, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2011
When I began my consulting career, I was amazed by the ability of my mentor to just "know" the scope of a problem and come up with solutions. It was more than just having seen the problem before; it was intuitive creation that didn't require long analysis and contemplation. Is this something that can be taught (or learned)? It would be a really useful skill for a consultant to have.

Much of what we see in people who can seemingly instantly come up with a problem solution is pattern recognition. They have seen either the problem before or enough components to assemble them into an understanding of the problem. In many cases, this ability to recognize patterns is combined with a pattern creation capability in which they can then devise a solution. Oh, that we could all have this capability.

Yet there is a difference between what we consider intuition and what most successful problems require for their solution: thoughtfulness. As fascinated as we are by quick thinking, it carries with it a range of flaws and dangers, including recency and other biases. Thoughtfulness, on the other hand, is less revered and people who insist on deliberate, logical thought are often considered pedantic. Yet, deliberative thinking also carries risks, including bias, information overload, and overconfidence.

Each style has its proponents but it has become apparent that neither is very effective by itself. If we want to be a productive and effective consultant who recognizes patterns and creates robust solutions, we need to learn how to use both capabilities together. We spend so much time learning consulting processes, analytical techniques and interpersonal skills that we neglect learning how best to effectively use our thinking engines.

Tip: A terrific journey through this issue is Dan Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Like much of Kahneman's work on judgment, intuition and decision making under uncertainty. it should be considered a user's guide to the consulting mindset. This is one of the best books on the subject and one that bears reading twice.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  contact information  creativity  decision making  knowledge assets  knowledge management  learning  process 

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#708: Consultants Must Understand "Big Data"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Clients are asking us to help them analyze large datasets of what traditionally would be considered peripheral data - the kind of data collected but never intended to be used. Is this something that other consultants are being asked to do and in which we should develop a capability?

The past few decades have seen an exponential increase in both intensive and extensive data collection. The sources of these data range from discrete business processes to consumer behavior to geographical information to global finance. The resulting aggregate datasets provide an unprecedented ability to analyze trends and patterns of complex behaviors in business, politics and consumer behavior. We have also developed prodigious new technologies to collect, store, search, visualize, analyze and share these data. With deference to privacy concerns, the ability to link these datasets to each other provides the analytical foundation to model and understand and predict future behavior of complex systems.

The term "big data" refers to datasets that exceed the capability of traditional commercially available analytical software. What could Walmart do with the data from 1 million transactions per hour? How about a marketer and millions of LinkedIn person to person connections? Consider the implications fro healthcare, finance, manufacturing, services, government and R&D, with estimates of savings from use of big data ranging into the hundreds of billions annually in the US alone. As companies are more able to collect and use larger data sets, consultants must be aware of the potential applications and the techniques available to them. A growing number of companies are specializing in big data service, whose activities ar a good idea to follow and whose services you could use to best serve your clients.

Tip: The McKinsey Global Institute issued a report Big Data; The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity That discusses these concepts and provides a good insight into where consultants are most needed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology  data visualization  information management  innovation  knowledge assets  knowledge management  trends 

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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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#487: Where is Innovation in Your Practice Coming From?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I know that my consulting practice should be changing as fast as the businesses of my clients. I just don't have time to create new lines of service. Any ideas how to put a little more innovation into my practice?

Good question, and one many consultants don't ask themselves. Whether you call it staying fresh, ahead of the curve, or innovative, consultants must constantly create new value. Let's talk about how.

Your source of innovation should come first from your clients. They are either in need of new services or are actually asking you for additional services. Be attentive to their needs and discuss possible new services with them. Challenges for one client are likely similar to current or imminent challenges for other clients.

The second source of innovation is from your colleagues and from consulting conferences. Members of your network are providing services that, with a few adaptations, could add to your own. Find a collection of consultants with diverse practices who discuss trends in consulting and are also looking to innovate. Conferences like IMC's Confab are great places to meet with senior consultants with whom you can develop new areas of interest and potentially team.

Tip: However you decide to innovate, do it through a steady process, whether you develop new areas of practice or are tweaking current ones. Take one of your primary services and spend a month improving it. Find a more effective way to describe your service to prospective and current clients (this might give you some ideas about what areas of value might be missing). Ask colleagues for examples of how they provide similar services. Finally, ask your clients how you could improve your service. Work on innovation, don't just wait for it to happen.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  knowledge management  trends 

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