Consulting, as a profession, is in my humble opinion an extremely honorable pursuit that can bring tremendous value to the purchasers of consulting services. But that’s only when applying a very narrow definition of the “consulting.”

What is that definition?

A true consultant is an independent professional that through the application of their unique knowledge, experience and (occasionally) intellectual property, transforms the outcome of their client’s situation. (Kudos to Alan Weiss for that insight…)

But unfortunately, the majority of “consultants” out there are simply supplying outsourced labor.

And perhaps that’s why Lucas Miller’s post at TNW bothers me a little. The title of his post kind of says it all: Why you’re more qualified to be a consultant than you think.

From the intro:

This post isn’t just to boost your mood, although that would be a good side effect. The real purpose here is to show that you can utilize your talents in such a way that they pay the bills. The name of the game here is “consulting.”

I think words like “freelancing” or “subcontracting” are much more accurate than “consulting” when it comes to describing the work that most self-professed consultants perform.

To be fair, Miller does make mention of a consultant he knows that is producing measurable ROI for their clients, despite being only 18 — a real outlier. Unfortunately, it gives the impression that anybody can leverage skills picked up in between homework assignments and school dances.

Nervous about launching your career as consultant?

Don’t be — all you need is some successful experience, some productive failures, a lot of sweat equity, and the willingness to scrap a plan on a minute’s notice. If this sounds like you, congrats — you’re already qualified to be a consultant.

What’s missing? If you want to be a true consultant, make sure that the efforts of your client work produce measurable results, and ideally, implement value-based fees as opposed to billing based on increments of time.

But ultimately, perhaps the real test for who is and who is not a consultant comes down to their relationship with their client. A real consultant is a peer of their client, engaged in a collaborative process.

Patagonia is a company I first learned about through my high school government teacher, who happened to have been a longtime friend of the founder of the company. The two had shared many adventures backpacking and hiking in remote locations over the years, and as my teacher at the time shared, the company’s image as granola-munching and tree-hugging hippies was quite authentic indeed.

Balancing altruistic and humanistic ideals with the need for business profitability is a dance Patagonia has performed well for decades, as Fast Company recently chronicled:

Sustainable business practices, corporate transparency, authentic brand marketing, family-friendly and flexible employee policies—flip through the business pages of any paper or magazine, or conference panel discussions, and you’ll find these are all de rigueur right now among progressive brands and companies looking for ways to connect with and retain both consumers and employees. They’re also all things Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote extensively about more than a decade ago in his 2006 business memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

The small iron works and climbing equipment shop Chouinard founded in 1957 has since expanded into a global brand, reaching more than $750 million in sales, and since current CEO Rose Marcario’s arrival in 2008 as CFO, a compound annual growth rate of 14%, and profits have tripled. Perhaps confounding to some, the company has done this while maintaining a strict commitment to sustainablility in its products and supply chain—whether its using 100% organic cotton and creating neoprene-free surfing wetsuits, to a marketing campaign encouraging people to buy less of its products. Though the company’s core philosophies remain the same, Chouinard has published a 10th anniversary update of his book to “share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decade ahead to achieve our goals.”

When my wife and I were first married, we lived in the North Park area of San Diego. Once a second child was on the way we knew we needed to find a better living situation, so we left. That was right at the beginning of the explosion of the craft beer scene.

There is an interesting pattern that seems to exist in any new high-growth industry: after early adopters open the door to a mainstream marketplace creating widespread demand (thereby “crossing the chasm”), and as a complete ecosystem develops around this burgeoning industry, next come the lawsuits, followed by standardized insurance policy provisions. Eventually the lawyers specializing in these areas of law will get together at annual conventions where they sometimes drink far too much.
(more…)

I am afraid that I must agree with Steve Tobak on his bewilderment over Zappos’ bizarre experiment in business management known as Holacracy:

Here’s what I don’t get. How can a system be billed as a self-governing and non-hierarchical democratized version of the corporation when, in practice, it’s actually the most rigid, tedious, bureaucratic, and ironically, hierarchical, management structure imaginable.

It’s as if a software engineer with delusions of grandeur decided to write a hundred thousand lines of code to describe his own personal vision of how a company should operate – complete with its own extraordinarily complex language, constitution, rules for everything you can think of, and library of developer kits, apps and APIs.

It even has a cloud-based tool called GlassFrog that governs how everything should be done – from projects and meetings to authority and decision-making – right down to the minutiae of checklists, metrics, boundaries, and roles and responsibilities. I don’t care what you call it or how you spin it, that sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare.

Over at Adweek, Jason Snyder has a great piece on who the real target demographic might be for marketing: robots.

Whoever is closest to the consumer controls the conversation. But it’s not you who’s closest—it’s the machines. The good news for marketers is that unlike fickle, demographic-defying consumers, robots are consistent—staying true to their programming. For now anyway. And talking to them requires speaking their language—and increasingly that language is less about understanding 1’s and 0’s and more about simple, normal words.

 

San Diego has been at the epicenter of the microbrewery and craft beer scene since the beginning. The neighborhood my wife and I lived in when we were first married went from being an affordable place to rent an apartment, to becoming the scene for artisanal brews. The hookers have been mostly displaced by hipsters.

Besides my own personal observations, and bold statements made by various pundits in the local beer scene, is there really anything to this craft beer explosion in San Diego? (more…)

Way back in the year 718, an entrepreneur named Houshi or Hoshi (depending on who is translating), opened an inn on the site of a natural hot spring in the Awazu region of central Japan. 46 generations later, the Hoshi Ryokan hotel has remained operated by the same family, making it the oldest family-run business in the entire world. (more…)

The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO, though not to be confused with “Chief Information Officer”) is a relatively new position in the marketplace created with the express goal of fostering innovation within a company.

Innovation, though, rarely happens through shear force of will and poor management is often the greatest obstacle to institutionalizing the kind of innovative and entrepreneurial practices that some leaders dream of. Alessandro Di Fiore, writing for Harvard Business Review, says that even well-managed companies inadvertantly create environments that are hostile to innovation:

This is precisely why large companies need a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), a powerful executive who can counterbalance the natural killing instinct of a company’s business units and design a more innovation-friendly organizational environment.

Drawing on the results of our research at the European Center for Strategic Innovation, we have developed a framework that can help CIOs to see how successful they are in doing just that. We have identified seven key roles in the CIO’s mission:

  1. Supporting best practices
  2. Developing skills
  3. Supporting business units in new product and service initiatives
  4. Identifying new market spaces
  5. Helping people generate ideas
  6. Directing seed funding
  7. Designing shelter for promising projects

Source: HBR