Step inside one of the new innovation hubs that more consulting firms are opening and you’ll see advanced touch screens, enticing brainstorming nooks, stand-up desks, cutting-edge conference rooms and perhaps even a foos-ball table or two.
You won’t see many walls, however. That seems
fitting, given that the brainstorming, problem-solv-ing, prototyping flourishing among the open floor
plans are designed to help client teams adapt to
the rapid demands of digital transformation while
sidestepping the obstacles posed by traditional
functional silos and other organizational barriers.
If you look even closer you may see signs that
traditional approaches to consulting are being
disrupted. Leaders of innovation hubs frequently
promote the benefits of housing a wide variety of
consulting expertise in an interactive setting – not
only to help address specific client challenges, but
also to stimulate conversations and inquiries that
can seed enhancement to consulting services.
Mercer Global Innovation Leader Barbara
Marder reports that one of the objectives of Mercer’s innovation center is to develop new products
and solutions for use throughout the entire firm.
Lou Trebino, who serves as the leader of KPMG’s
Denver ignition center, says that consultants who
work in the center frequently get pulled into client
sessions when brainstorming sessions suddenly
swerve into their area of expertise.
When a discussion with a client team from a
consumer-products company hit upon a tax issue,
Trebino recalls that he “just walked out of the room
and went around the corner to our tax innovation
team. I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got so-and-so in the room
right now, and here’s what we’re talking about. I
know you did something similar recently—could
you come in and share with them an example of
what they should be thinking about?’”
These types of connections and discussions
cannot be scheduled in advance, and Trebino as-
serts that these off-the-cuff interactions really ap-
peal to clients.
“There is a magic that happens when you bring
these [consulting] teams together more organical-
ly, Trebino continues. “…It doesn’t always result in
new work, but it enhances our brand and our cred-
ibility. There is generally something beneficial that
comes out of those interactions.”
Similar exchanges crop up among consultants
with different specialties. A tax technology expert,
a data scientist, and a retail consultant can routine-
ly compare notes while taking a break over a game
of pool, for example, and that may lead to some in-
teresting idea related to service enhancements.
The growing importance of the customer experi-
ence and digital transformation in most industries
has many firms hustling to staff innovation centers
with a mix of designers, user experience experts,
technologists and traditional analytical problem-
solvers. There is also a need (one that has been in-
tensifying over many years) to address client prob-
lems and design solutions by integrating thinking
and improvements that cuts across traditional or-
ganizational silos—and that come from a blend of tra-
ditional vertical and horizontal consulting functions.
In this way, the simple act of placing a new mix
of expertise in the same office may turn out to be
one of the most valuable breakthroughs that come
out of innovation centers. —E.K.
Innovation Centers May Transform
Consulting Teams, Too