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Consultation via Collaboration

When management consultants stop being experts and start being collaborators, companies benefit.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

What if We Shifted the Basis of Consulting from Knowledge to Knowing?
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Jeff Hicks, Padmakumar Nair, and Celeste P. M. Wilderom

Management Learning, vol. 40, no. 3

Date Published: 
July 2009

Companies should consider making a fundamental shift in the way they think about management consulting, according to the authors of this paper. The current preference is for expert-based “knowledge,” meaning that consultants act as advisors to clients, providing outside diagnoses of problems. In many cases, these consultants’ suggestions are based on a well-defined body of academic and third-party research, but not necessarily on firsthand experience with the challenges faced. The consulting approach of “knowing” is more hands-on, involving close cooperation with the client company. One of the advantages of this method, the authors stress, is that information about a given business, industry sector, or project is not merely transferred from consultants to clients, but rather created during a process of active collaboration. When problems crop up, argue the authors, the collaborators have a mutual incentive to solve them — an approach that ultimately spreads more information, accountability, and knowledge throughout the entire team. 

Bottom Line:
Companies will benefit if management consultants shift their focus away from the traditional expert-driven approach and instead explore collaborative client–consultant projects.

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