Mutterings of a consultant

August 7, 2008

Consulting – a whole of brain profession

Filed under: Uncategorized — grantfrear @ 1:14 am
Tags: , ,

Having recently completed Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, I have come to realise that consulting is indeed a whole of brain experience.  Pink presents a perspective on the changes in our workforce and society as we transition from an environment dominated by left brain activities (logical, sequential, rational) to right brain activities (experiential, non-linear, creative, empathetic).  While I have for some time seen consulting as a creative endeavour, or at least the way that I practice the profession, I had not really thought through deeply what this meant in terms of engaging my brain, and the two hemispheres within it.

So here I am, thinking more deeply about it.  Lets start with the consulting process (in very simplified form)


Now if I think about this in terms of Left and Right dominated activities here is how I see things shaping up (left to right, top to bottom in good old fashioned left brain structured presentation :-).

Left                                 Right

Analysis                                   Design


Implement                               Change

So here in lies the challenge for consulting, consultants and the partnership that I work for in particular.  Most of our academic lives are spent on the left, we train and reward people to be structured, analytical, logical etc.  This clearly means that the we are well positioned to analyse, plan and implement (i.e. follow the plan).  We do not however get trained as much in the right brain activities (creativity, empathy, story-telling, play) and as such many consultants having done a great job with structured analysis launch into structured design (surely simply addressing the issues identified in analysis is in fact design?). 

How can this be overcome?  Here are a few ideas that may or may not take hold:

  • Teach design as part of the core training of consultants – empathy, creativity, observation, innovation
  • Increase diversity in the workplace (Andersen Consulting used this approach with mixed results, I can remember early training days with a history graduate, they were never going to make a C programmer)
  • Reduce dependence on methods – good for analysis, can be suffocating for design
  • Drop the neckties and reduce the hierarchy (perhaps that is simply me getting sick of wearing a suit)

1 Comment »

  1. The answer to the 1st question poses lots of questions – what do you mean by “design” and “consultant”. Some consultants are trained in design theory and process (I was) i.e. it probably depends what your have been trained in. Maybe there are some things you may not be able to train people in e.g. empathy (or creativity) – I suspect these things are more innate like (height, intelligence, etc.) – perhaps you can affect them marginally.

    It is interesting you mention history. I think a lot of consulants (and others, including me) could benefit from studying it more carefully i.e. to learn from the mistakes of others.

    There are good methods and bad methods – some methods are very powerful in help design (others are not).

    I think actually design includes analysis (i.e. imagination, conception etc.) – so the distinction is not between design and analysis – but between design (which encompasses analysis) and imagining, conceiving

    Comment by MJE — August 21, 2008 @ 3:10 am | Reply

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