What is Consulting Innovation?

The way in which consultancies innovate is central to their strategic advantage in relation to both their clients and their competitors. But how should we define the topic?

Rather than ask academics, I thought it wiser to ask consultants themselves. My Consulting Innovation Questionnaire, which has currently been answered by over 200 management consultants, gave consultants space to provide their own definition of innovation in their firms, which resulted in 120 contributions (see word cloud below).

An excellent MBA supervisee of mine (Sam White) performed a coding analysis of these statements which generated three different aspects of innovation:

1. New Solutions (56%): creating products, processes and services which are new, either to the market or to the consultancy itself.

2. Adapting Solutions (24%): modifying products, processes and services.

3. Creative Problem Solving (20%): ad hoc solutions which do not lead to new products but which overcome an issue for clients or consultants.

The vast majority of academic research focuses on the first category – highlighting, for example, how successful products are commodified and used as symbols of security and expertise. The others are much less common objects of study for academics.