With the ascent of technology and revolution of business models, we have entered a new age of ideas. This changing economic climate demands a different type of consultants.
As the world undergoes a seismic economic revolution, the role of consultant is shifting dramatically as well. Right after World War II, the emphasis was solely on ramping up production and supplying quality goods around the world. Decades later, the sole pursuit of efficiency is no longer relevant as the world has now entered an era of oversupply. This trend is clearly evident in corporations such as Amazon and Alibaba: these companies have changed the rules of the game by implementing new unifying platforms for products and services. They decimate traditional players who relied on the old playbook that offering quality goods and low-prices are good enough. On the other end, look at Apple—a company that has achieved great success not just through the quality of its good, but its focus on business model and experience. The answer is clear: we have reached a new age of ideas.
As traditional boundaries collapse, this begets the question of — where do consultants fit? Years ago, I understood that the traditional role of being a domain expert is not enough. In an environment that is constantly changing, a consultant’s specialization might ironically be an obstacle and hinder one from being exposed to new viable paths to success. To be effective, consultants must dive deep into the details, learn from other disciplines, get involved in the implementation process to understand the changing reality on the ground. In other words, a consultant can no longer just advise but has to fight in the trenches alongside with the client in a world of rapid change.
Even after we refit our model to do this, we realized that it was not enough. As companies go through the struggles of economic upheavals while fearing change, business leaders need more than just an advisor, they need someone who can journey with them as they find their new purpose in this new world order. This is where the traditional consultant falls shorts. Finding purpose requires a new breed of consultants, who themselves have been disrupted or are willing to be disrupted, and who are seekers of purpose, essentially people who have faced the same struggle of finding a new role in this fast evolving world. This empathy is fundamental; without which, the consultant cannot truly understand the client and help shepherd meaningful changes.
The other ongoing problem is that with so many traditional play books being thrown out of the window, how do you ensure that consultants are not merely following trends but are truly listening and seeing? Just look at the smart city conversation, how can we talk about city development with an emphasis on technology, without considering the rising fault lines in terms of identity, the new reality of weak democratic governments, rising sovereign debt? It is an example of a silo conversation pushed by some technology vendor and not a holistic solution that integrates consideration of social-economic and political dynamics, or the impact of a future with lesser need for workers.
But this is a problem with the mindset of many consultants: “I am an expert in my domain and have little need to learn from the other.” Or, “I might tolerate the other so long as I can do my job.” This approach is doomed to fail because if we want to be of value to our clients then we must learn how to be humble, be willing to be curious, respect other disciplines and learn from unexpected moments or persons.
We learned this the hard way ourselves that when we have full-time consultants who are deeply engaged in our cultural practices while the project consultants only come in to do the work. Even though the project consultants are experts, many were unwilling to lose their ideas or be disrupted when it is clear that some of their ideas have expired. This pushed us to integrate project consultants in our cultural practices such as inviting them to reflect on their own personal purpose, getting them to share their experiences and then participate in Bonsai where we critic and affirm one another in a team exercise. The results have been astounding: the synergy of ideas and implementation improved and we understand the underlying reasons when consultants are not.
In Latin, Consulus means “with others”. And in our experience as Consulites, it is increasingly clear that we are a global community of purpose-driven leaders who are journeying with one another and our clients. Whether it is in Fortaleza or Hanoi, our work is first and foremost about helping each person find purpose to enable them to reshape themselves so as to change the world. Now with this clarity of purpose and business model, many consultants upon meeting Consulus have become Consulites. The purpose of Consulus can be summed up here in the reflection by a new Consulite:
“I see Consulus as a consultancy company that wish to go beyond the superficial branding of a fancy name or tagline with insincere gestures of change for economic profit. Consulus wants every transformation to come from within, a sincerity that reveals itself from inside out. It asks of it not just from its clients, but from its employees and partners as well
That requires a change in mentality from top management to the bottom from the corporations Consulus work with and for the Consulus team to have the faith that this would have the ripple effect to eventually change the world, one corporation at a time. If every corporation follows the same transformation, it might bring out the true meaning of a corporation with a soul.”
At our recent Global School for Consulites, I shared that many consultants are already driven by purpose and all they seek is a community of like-minded individuals like ours. This is analogous to the action Marvel superhero tribe of “X-Men” as we all believe in the power of purpose and unity. Likewise, we are a school of exceptional talent who seeks to shape a better world. But jokes aside, I meant it seriously. We are in a battle between two schools of thought for the Economy, one of exploitation and the other is communitarian. The exploitation school of thought sees the human person as a resource and something that can be discarded when better technology arrives. The communitarian school of thought considers the necessary participation of the human person, the necessity of community, the importance of beliefs and identity in economic evolution and sustainability.
We see the purpose of Consulus wherever we are, as serving the critical role of providing innovative and systemic ideas that will harness human creativity with technology serving it to shape a better world. Instead of accepting the dire conclusion that technology will dominate, leading to lesser human involvement, let us shape the future for humanity. It may be tough, but it is a worthwhile battle nonetheless.
As we celebrate our 13th anniversary, the time could not be opportune to commit to a battle worth fighting for, a future role for our children, a dignified place for workers and a shared future with technology.