A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a business experiment. Building on the experience of Tuttle, Lloyd Davis has been putting together a consultancy offering; this worked like an open source programme, really – transfer the conversations we have at Tuttle to a productive, business-lead discussion: bring what you can.
The first outing was based on crowd-sourcing – a new space both for us and the client1. We talked through where they were and what they were after, in a very open fashion. The client knew we were experimenting, and they were open to it – and this gave us the licence to make it up as we were going along. I think it felt scary and exposed for both client and consultants – but also energised and exciting.
It worked on several counts – both for us and, by all accounts, for the client. We didn’t have anything to sell: we didn’t have a product we were trying to push – there were no “off the shelf” solutions into which we tried to shoe-horn the clients’ issues. There was also dissent: the crowd of consultants (ok, there were a dozen or so of us) were each approaching things from their own experience and perspective, and we had different ideas about what might or might not work. Because we weren’t working within a conventional corporate hierachy, we weren’t trying to score points off each other, so we could concentrate on what we thought would really work (and what the client could get to work – without painful, costly interventions).
The second session was perhaps more focused: building on the outputs of the first, we came up with concrete ideas that could become proto-projects – things the client could take away and actually make happen. This had a smaller number of consultants working on it – just five or so – helping take the broad ideas and possibilities developed in the first session and funnel them into a range of real, creative activites.
It was hard, intense work; but because we had experience of constructive conversations from Tuttle, it didn’t really feel like work. In tandem with the client, we took the initial ideas, kicked them around a bit and beat them into shape. From the initial input, we were creating something solid.
This business model felt quite new – to me at least. (It is possible that such open, free-form, improvisational consulting is old hat; I’m sure you’ll tell me if it is!) Because of our experience from Tuttle, the understanding between the consultants – who hadn’t necessarily met or spoken with each other before – were such that we were open to challenge: there were no right or wrong answers, just lots of options.
Our openness seemed to be appreciated by the clients, too – because it was a different experience for them as well: not the usual sort of consultants’ offering. I think they learnt from it, as I believe we did.
All in all, it felt a very positive experience, and one I hope we are able to grow and share with more people.
[1Our clients are apparently happy to be identified, but, as I was writing this, it didn’t really feel right to share their identity with all and sundry: this post is more about the process, what felt new and the way we worked – what actually excited me about working in a different way – than what we actually delivered for them. That they were happy to be identified I think says a lot for the openness of that process.]