Oh my god, they want me to be wise ….

October 23, 2007

I’ve just come off a conference call to a class at the University of Texas. I was there to answer questions on the nature of consultancy and it was an interesting experience. To be honest I feel a bit of a fraud. While I have been asked to consult on many occasions I have never had to sell myself as a consultant, or been through consultancy education of any type. In fact on two occasions where I was looking for a job as I was told by partners in large consultancy firms that I had none of the necessary qualities. I have come to see that as a complement by the way.

One of the questions was a request for wisdom (oh my god I must be getting old), to wit what advice would I give a person starting out. Thinking about it I came up with these (other ideas welcome):

  1. Join a small company where you are going to be thrown in deep end early. That way you will find out if you can cut it before it is too late, and you will have a more interesting life than acting as utilisation fodder.
  2. Work very hard on building and creating your network, not just in your firm but with clients, academics and others. Above all read, read and read more in related fields, rather than consultancy magazines and management text books. You have to be curious, and diverse in your reading and learning to do the job well.
  3. Go the extra mile, you are selling value not time. It’s what people do with your ideas that count, but don’t be afraid to walk away if nothing meaningful is going to happen. If the client wants to make something happen, help them even if you don’t always get paid for the time.

Given more thought I could come up with a better list, but for tonight that was it.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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