In today’s dynamic market, many companies are faced with providing creative solutions to their customer’s problems in order to stay in business, making workplace innovation extremely important.
According to the McKinsey Global Innovation Survey, though 86% of executives agree innovation is key for growth strategy, only 6% are satisfied with the innovative efforts of their company. In other words, companies need innovative strategies but are struggling to create and implement them.
While many businesses look to hire creative problem-solvers, for many employees performing their daily tasks and having the energy to provide fresh, innovative ideas above and beyond their daily duties can be challenging. When team members are so close to the work they do every day or are used to providing a specific value for their customers, strategic improvements to their business can be challenging to identify or act upon.
This is why consulting exists. However, all consulting is not created equal.
There are various types of consultants who specialize in different subjects. If you’re already in the consulting field, you may already have a specific niche or area of expertise. However, as I mentioned above, businesses are going to need support centered on innovation to remain competitive.
Enter innovation consulting.
What is innovation consulting?
Innovation consulting is the practice of providing advice and direction to businesses and organizations looking to implement new growth and business strategies.
Innovation involves new ways of creating values for customers. Though commonly associated with tech, innovation consultants can unlock new business opportunities for companies of all sectors. In this role, innovation consultants support organizations in creating and implementing creative strategies to support business objectives in a new way.
If you’re interested in a career in innovation consulting, let’s dive a little deeper to understand the value you would provide to your clients in the role.
What does an innovation consultant do?
The role of an innovation consultant can vary depending on the industry they support, and the unique needs of the client. Some common areas an innovation consultant supports can include the following.
1. Reveal and fix broken processes.
When organizations continue to follow the same processes over and over because it’s "what they’ve always done" they are doing themselves a huge disservice. Not only does following the same processes time and time again leave little room for innovation, but it can also perpetuate inefficiencies and bad habits that can prevent business growth.
As an innovation consultant, you can ask the key questions about what processes your clients have in place and recommend better alternatives and solutions that can make a huge difference in their bottom line.
2. Provide a fresh perspective.
Sometimes having a different perspective can make all the difference. As an innovation consultant, you get to provide a fresh perspective with every client you work with.
By implementing your recommendations, clients can unlock new ways of operating. As a consultant who is well-versed in innovation strategy, you can provide meaningful insight that teams you’re working with may not see because they are too busy working in their business to see what improvements could be made.
3. Clarify your client’s vision.
Do your clients have a clear vision for where they want their companies to go but have a hard time articulating and executing that vision? If so, you can help them gain clarity putting their thoughts onto paper and into action.
As an innovation consultant, you have the opportunity to map out strategies that can bring your client’s visions to life.
4. Explore new ways of doing business.
In consulting, chances are you have experience working with various organizations. Your clients on the other hand may not have diverse backgrounds to draw from when navigating their current business climate.
You can share best practices and lessons learned from your experience working with other clients to support those you’re currently working with, teaching them new ways of doing business.
5. Identify new growth strategies.
For companies looking to develop and sell new products and services, having a clear, viable growth strategy is critical. As an innovation consultant, you could work alongside organizations to provide valuable direction for the demand and development of new offerings and ways to grow their businesses.
6. Support and develop the client’s team.
Having a strong team is important for any organization focused on innovation. As an innovation consultant, you can provide much-needed guidance to support employee development for evolving organizations.
Some important tasks related to supporting and developing team members for peak innovation can include:
Systems to Make Innovation Possible
Recognizing where some organizational systems may be falling short, and preventing creative ideas and problem-solving. If an organization’s team is spending precious time finding workarounds to broken systems, they have less capacity to truly innovate in ways that can create growth opportunities for their company.
Training Plans to Close Skill Gaps
What gets measured gets done. An innovation consultant can help create tangible plans to help team members close necessary skills gaps and reach their workplace goals.
Though as the consultant you are not necessarily responsible for executing these tasks, you can lay the framework empowering your clients to bridge the gap between where their workforce is currently performing, and how they need to perform in the future to drive innovation.
7. Uncover opportunities to build new business.
For many companies looking for growth, new business is essential. Innovation consultants work with their clients to identify new opportunities and markets, which are essential for mapping out future growth. Additionally, innovation consultants can provide insight into new business model opportunities for the organizations they work with.
Additionally, companies who are looking to launch entirely new ventures can find value in receiving strategic support from innovation consultants.
8. New product prototypes and testing.
Depending on the client and the type of product they are looking to launch, innovation consultants may also provide support in ensuring their product is ready to go to market. A consultant with a design or product background can help facilitate the testing of new products for adherence to quality standards, and can also provide design and functionality input for new offerings.
How to Become An Innovation Consultant
There is no linear path to becoming an innovation consultant, however, experience in the following areas can help qualify you for the role:
As an innovation consultant you will likely be tasked with supporting your clients as they launch a new product or offer. Having experience working on teams that have successfully gone to market with a new product can provide valuable insight for your consulting work.
We previously discussed how team member development is an important aspect of innovation. Having experience supporting employees as they build new skills can give you a competitive edge.
While innovation consulting can be a creative field, it also requires the ability to read and interpret data to make sound recommendations.
Track Record of Driving Results
Even if you don’t have extensive consulting experience, draw upon your experiences working on projects or in teams that had a tangible positive result. Approaching these experiences with innovation at the top of mind, and a measurable impact to show for it is key.