I originally wrote this essay as part of a GRE practice test, and as I completed it, I couldn’t help but think of the corporate clients I’ve worked with who could benefit from its sentiment. In some ways, it departs from my usual content on here, as I rarely write about the business world, even while I am occasionally consulting within it.
In the end, though, the lessons here are ones for people in any industry or field: bring on board a tremendously diverse workforce, empower them, listen to them, and you will be the most successful entity in your field.
From a Consultant: Why Your Business Doesn’t Need a Consultant
There’s an old business adage that says, “If you want someone to state the obvious, hire a consultant.” Yet business consulting and organizational development is a billion-dollar industry in the United States. Often, though, these consultants are hired before the organization even looks to the brilliance of its own team for solutions. In the knowledge-based economy, businesses that rely on outdated, top-down structures of leadership are being left behind.
Businesses that maximize the power of the team through effective feedback mechanisms while encouraging and fostering creativity in their team are far less likely to need a consultant to help them grow and prosper.
Listen to Your Employees
For the vast majority of consultants, the consulting process begins with a period of data gathering. This data can range from expenses and profit margins to personnel files, but more often than not, it draws upon the experiences and voices of every member of the organization to diagnose any problems that may exist and to help the business create a plan forward. In short, consultants are hired to tell businesses what they should already know.
Through interviews with employees, surveys with clients, and an analysis of the leadership structure, effective consultants can determine with little effort whether a business is exploiting the collective brilliance of all of its team and easily offer plans for doing so more adeptly.
Notably, then, businesses that have a structure for listening to team members and for fostering creativity in employees are those least likely to benefit from the services of a consultant.
This is because those that need consultants to tell them how to proceed are far more likely to be operating from outdated business models based on top-down leadership structure where creativity is seen as primarily driven from those “appointed” as leaders within the organization. The problem, though, is that this business model was designed in the time of a different economy. The strictly labor-based economy dictated that “creative” employees designed products that the “labor” would simply execute and build.
To Succeed in the Knowledge-Based Economy, Empower the Creative Brilliance of Everyone
Today’s economy, though, is knowledge-driven and ever-changing. As such, the most effective companies are those that have decentralized leadership structures and encourage every team member to see themselves as the vehicle of creative entrepreneurship.
Google Inc., for instance, is arguably the single most successful multi-media empire, and it has built its success on a model where every employee is a leader in the organization. Leaving behind the cubicle and the “managerial team,” Google Inc. has used cutting-edge cognitive research about creativity and human motivation to design work spaces that are open, inviting, and that offer multiple avenues for each employee to pursue their own ideas.
As such, they have established themselves as more than simply a search engine. They are the single most innovative force in the tech industry, offering everything from phone operating systems, multi-modal internet platforms for creating, cell phones and tablets, and, of course, the most complex logarithm for searching the internet yet to be invented. And all of this has been done by simply trusting, listening to, and empowering their creative workforce.
Hire a Diversity of Talent, and Foster an Inclusive Environment
Firms like Google have also been careful to hire an incredible diversity of talent, bringing in team members from all over the world and from every walk of life. As a result, they have been able to realize not only the brilliance of an empowered team but the brilliance of a diverse employee workforce.
Many businesses, though, are hiring a more diverse workforce from a sense of social or legal pressure. In doing so, they are not realizing the tremendous power and potential that comes with diversity in the workplace and, in turn, fail to foster the creative brilliance in their diverse team.
Diversity is the single greatest asset that a business can have in the knowledge-based economy because of the vast perspectives that can be brought to bear in solving any problem or in ensuring innovation in their field.
By not only hiring diverse teams but listening to those teams, effective businesses in the 21st century do not need consultants, for their team can offer them the creative and fresh insights that they need to grow and respond in this ever-changing market.
And while there can be a case to be made for the new, fresh ideas that a consultant can bring to a businesses, smart businesses realize that they already have the insights they need in their current workforce. All they need to do is create feedback mechanisms where employees can be fully honest and foster a work environment where employees are more fully able to realize their creativity.
Unfortunately, though, most businesses are slow to change with the times. And until more businesses learn that they have the fresh ideas they need already in their diverse work force, then consultants will be ever useful in stating the obvious.