Management Consulting vs Design

I’ve been digging through more of the InterSections 2007 transcripts this week and found a great session that touches on the differences between management consulting and service design: What can design bring to strategy?

Our strength is in bringing those threads together and telling stories. A management consultancy report can be quite dry and statistical which for certain people in the business world is the way they operate, they need to see spreadsheets, they need to see data, but ultimately they are trying to reach out to partners, to the marketplace and to do that they can’t go with data, they have got to go with stories and we can take that data and translate that effectively into stories, that is the thing we really need to perfect in a way, is our ability to tell stories. 

Consultants are better at marketing, they market their services better and they are better at networking, they court the influences. If you want to exert strategic influence you have to get close to people to exercise that power. They are better at pricing: well, put it this way, they are better at putting the real value on what they offer and I think the design profession falls down, I think you undercharge dreadfully. They are good at listening, a real skill, they come in, they listen and empathise, they are good at analysis in terms of trawling for data and assembling information and they are very good at assembling an argument in business terms.

They are the good things. What they are not good at is lack of breadth of vision and lack of creativity. I have seen some very good consultants’ reports which analyse situations saying ‘Get out of this market, cut this’ and what ever, I have never seen one that you read and thought, ‘I didn’t think to see it that way’. They miss the big picture, they miss the big opportunities, no-one who has broken in to a new field which is popular and has done fantastically well has done so on the basis of a management consultant’s report. So they have their role, but it is very different, you can see what design brings to it because they are not so good at the earlier points I made they are not really influencing that role.

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