The top reasons why hiring an innovation consultant is a stellar investment for any business
When faced with issues or challenges in our personal lives, we all know that it helps to have an outside perspective. We call a trusted friend to tell them what’s going on because they help us see things in a fresh light. The same is true in business. Often we need an outside opinion to look at our business challenge from a new angle.
That’s where innovation consulting comes in. An innovation consultant is an advisor who can provide new tools and methods for tackling your problem. If you’re stuck in a project, need to rethink an existing one, or are kicking off an initiative that has to go well, consider innovation consulting.
What is innovation consulting?
Companies like ours, Voltage Control, offer advice, guidance, and training to companies of all sizes. Whether you are a burgeoning startup or a large organization, you can benefit from innovation consulting. First, innovation consultants will work with you to identify the exact problem you need to solve. For example, your problem might be: we need a shared vision for our end-to-end customer experience. Or, we’re designing a website for new dog owners, and we need to know what’s most important to our audience.
An innovation consultant can help you hone in on the right questions to ask for your specific challenge.
An innovation consultant can help you hone in on the right questions to ask for your specific challenge. They often bring a blend of expertise from everything from design thinking and human-centered design to product design. They can work with you to think of novel ideas and approaches you haven’t considered before and make a plan for executing on your new strategy.
“The consultant also has a professional responsibility to ask whether the problem as posed is what most needs solving. Very often the client needs help most in defining the real issue…” — Arthur N. Turner, “Consulting Is More Than Giving Advice,” HBR, 1982.
Here are the top six benefits of innovation consulting:
Break Old Habits
One of the first benefits of innovation consulting is that it helps you shake up your typical way of doing things. Most companies have ingrained habits. Maybe it’s the way you hold meetings, how you present to supervisors, or how projects get funded and designed. Some of these patterns exist for a reason; others are leftover, legacy ways of working that don’t serve a purpose.
An innovation consultant comes in and helps you look at what you should be doing rather than how it’s always been done. Their outsider’s perspective means you’re less inclined to follow the well-worn paths of your organization.
Wisdom from Outside Industries
Another benefit of innovation consulting is that your innovation consultant likely comes with a plethora of expertise in many industries and types of companies. Let’s say you’re in the telecom business. Hopefully, your innovation consultant has some knowledge of your industry, but they will also bring expertise from adjacent or even unrelated sectors and fields. This is a good thing. You want outside inspiration if you’re going to make something innovative.
Because consultants usually work with companies of different sizes and in different markets, they can bring a diversity of knowledge to the table. Who knows, maybe your telecom company can learn something breakthrough from the dog food startup your innovation consultant just worked with.
Focus Your Time
Typically, you’ll work with your innovation consultant through semi-formal meetings or workshops. This dedicated time to focus on critical business challenges is invaluable. That’s because many of us are overscheduled and incredibly busy trying to get our “day job” done. We don’t have time to squeeze innovation work into the tiny cracks of free space in our 9 to 5. But, we all want it to happen.
When you bring on an innovation consultant, you give yourself freedom and time. Now, you can focus on a problem you’ve meant to tackle but haven’t been able to. (For example, check out this case study about the food delivery company Favor and how they used a Design Sprint to focus their attention on a critical business need.)
Innovation consultants give you the freedom to focus on what matters, not what’s urgent.
While you might be overwhelmed at the prospect of setting aside a whole day or week for a Design Sprint or innovation workshop when you’re busy, the results are worth it. Innovation consultants help you take the time to work on big problems in a collaborative way with your colleagues. With their help, you can shift from thinking about the day-to-day to working on game-changing innovation initiatives.
Innovation consultants help you take the time to work on big problems in a collaborative way with your colleagues.
Articulate Your Vision
In addition to being too busy, it’s hard for some companies to articulate their innovation strategy or to shape a compelling story for where they want to go. This is another benefit of innovation consultants. Through your engagement with your innovation consultancy, you will come up with a north star. Your north star articulates your vision for your product, feature, or experience.
Typically, your innovation consultant delivers a document that summarizes where you want to go and why. They might even help you create a prototype of your ideal, future experience. A good innovation consulting company will articulate what you accomplished through a shareable document or prototype that will help you rally your team or organization, and get things done.
Innovation consultants are often very connected and have an extensive network of people in the business and creative community. So, if you need to engage with new people and companies to execute on your innovative vision, your consultant might be able to help. For example, if you want to hire a team of developers or find a company to help you with brand identity, your innovation consultant probably knows talented, trusted candidates. They can help connect you to the people and companies you might not have access to so that you can build your product or experience.
Learn Through Doing
One of the last benefits of hiring an innovation consulting firm is that you and your team will learn new ways of working through the process. Today, many companies have their teams do some design thinking training but don’t always show them how to put it into practice. Watching your innovation consultant at work is a way to see how design thinking happens in practice.
Your innovation consultant will walk you through their tried-and-true methods and activities. If you pay attention and take a few notes, you can leverage those tools on your own the next time. When your team sees an expert innovation consultant in action, they’ll learn the methods through osmosis. They’ll be able to try the techniques on their own down the road when they want to spark innovative thinking.