Ten Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach Consultants
I was reading The Top Ten Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach Us – If We’ll Listen published on Forbes.com. The further I read it the more I became convinced the lessons are applicable to consulting. So I decided to add a twist and see the applicability of what Steve Jobs could teach consultants.
1. The most enduring innovations marry art and science
Consultant is innovator by design. Why calling consultants in first place? They are called to lead the change, to introduce something new or make things work differently. One thing is possessing the skills to make things work differently, the other is to picture the better state and sell key stakeholders on the vision. This is where the art kicks in. Consultants who could create appealing mental images and shape the vision in people minds are rare artists. Marry this skill with technical expertise and you get a consultant who could lead an enduring innovation.
2. To create the future, you can’t do it through focus groups
You cannot scope the problem without having bunch of relevant people in a room. Call it focus group. The trick is what to ask them and how to solicit information that can help shaping the future. One way, the traditional one, is to ask what they want as a solution. In most cases they don’t know it. The other way, the Jobs way, is to observe them at work and collect their stories, then brain storm and model how to improve their experience. Then nail vital few and deliver it. Same with consulting. Don’t ask the customer what he would want as a solution rather ask to tell his story and solicit enough information to make a decision what the vital 3 stories to nail, then brainstorm and model the solution that improves the experience.
3. Never fear failure
If you do fear failure you better stay out of consulting.
4. You can’t connect the dots forward – only backward
In consulting you should posses just enough skills to figure the solution in any given situation. The more skills you posses chances you will be successful in broader spectrum of situations. The downside is that you cannot predict what skills will be more valuable in the future. Here is an advise for you, invest in skills that you are passionate the most – let your passion drive. When you put heart in customers’ solutions the outcome would be most impactful. It will be fastest too, customers love fast solutions.
5. Listen to that voice in the back of your head that tells you if you’re on the right track or not
Intuition is consultant’s best friend. Solid skills are the foundation and handy, but intuition that’s getting improved over time after few failures is invaluable. If you are offered an attractive gig that your inner you tells you not to take – don’t. If you see a customer insists on a solution that your inner you tells you will make more harm than good tell him so. If your inner you tells you time to revitalize your technical skills – do so. If your inner you tells you to not to listen to it, you know what to do, eh?
6. Expect a lot from yourself and others
Consultant’s paid premium. No surprise here. Why? I bet you guessed, because he delivers to high expectations and beyond. To keep up with the pace consultant needs to be aware that all others do not stand on the same place. The competition is fierce and fittest survives. Consultant should expect others to get improved quickly and so does he to keep beating the competition and win customers’ hearts and minds.
7. Don’t care about being right. Care about succeeding
Defend your reputation, not your ego. When delivering a gig proactively set check points to test you are on path to success. Fail fast during those check points, offer options to the customer and let him choose from the list – offer tools for making decisions. Success of your customer is your success. Being right does not always achieves success. “I told you so” won’t get you more gigs. If you are not right – admit it and learn from the mistakes.
8. Find the most talented people to surround yourself with
Building the network is essential for consultant. This is how consultant scales and provides faster and better solutions – he relies on the network of smart people he has built over long period of time. If you don’t have a network the time is now – it takes time to build a solid network of smart people, waste no time. Engage with smart people in-person when delivering your gig, or during professional convention. Engage with smart people online – on forums, blogs, and social networks.
9. Stay hungry, stay foolish
“They keep moving the cheese.” If you have not read the book Who Moved My Cheese? you should. It will explain it all to you, and it is only 95 pages. If you think you could sit and eat your cheese endlessly you are wrong. Don’t wait for being out of cheese. Pretend it’s gone already and no one needs your current expertise, what do you do? What needs to be done now to make sure you are not hungry when cheese is gone? Test it, experiment, fail fast, and improve. Make your routine and you will never be hungry again.
10. Anything is possible through hard work, determination, and a sense of vision
You do not need Steve Jobs to learn that, eh?
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image by secretagent0074 October 2011