Why you need spoopy consulting and how to do it

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Don’t waste the reboot. Make this ‘next normal’ better than the last. Presented by The Yak Collective

Originally published on Medium: May 1 · 4 min read

Something exciting is happening; the fringes of organisational and business thinking and advice are becoming self-aware. Like a slime mold taking form, the disparate elements have come together and risen up into something other than the sum of the parts.

Over the last couple of weeks, a group led by the truly creative Venkatesh Rao (who seems to have, if not a God-like then at least an Adam-like ability to clarify the existence of things by naming them), and ably Sergeanted by people like Tom CritchlowPaul Millerd, and Pamela Hobart, have formed up an emerging group called the Yak Collective.

In the spirit of showing what can be done, we’ve collectively put together a slide deck exploring the crisis and how a better world of organisations and business could — possibly — be rebuilt. And all we ask is that, if you’re interested, you read and really have a think about it — respond if you are moved to do so.

So here’s the link to Don’t Waste The Reboot — ideas, approaches, challenges from the fringes, the slightly spooky — things that individual independent consultants are passionate about.

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25 ideas, six core themes in the slides

My own content in there is about organising for human needs in a post-crisis world. Some of my favourites are about

  • continual adaptation vs adaptedness
  • learning from the cultural fringe
  • shadow assets
  • the classic ‘three horizons’
  • an uncertainty mindset
  • making ‘the edge of chaos’ real
  • understanding the collective nervous system of an organisation
  • using mythology and archetype

Why are you still here? Go! Read for yourself. Think.

If you want more, I can offer three things:

And if you really want to learn about what spoopy consulting is, join me:

These will be Zoom meetings, but in keeping with the the theme, your presence must be obfuscated to take part. Wear a mask. Use SnapCam to attend as a potato. Cut off your hair and whatever is frightening.

Here’s a schtickle:

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Indies as Secret Weapon vs ‘let’s just call it ‘the new normal’’

Mainstream consulting has a lot going for it — incredible skill development, prestige, a brand for life, some very nice perks and a great network — along with the ever-present ‘partner carrot’ (and the carrot continues to be held out well beyond that promise finally, eventually coming true — a very senior partner once told me how his joy at ‘finally making it’ to Partner was allayed only by the fact that they then broke it to him that there are nine official ‘grades’ of partner, and within each of those, nine performance bands. YEp, new partners are suddenly at the bottom of an 81-level hierarchy).
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in one of what I disrespectfully and fat-shamingly tend to call ‘the Fat Four’.

And, as a client, it is entirely possible to get some good work, with good results. They have bright people, eager to impress, and they’re quite capable of generating projects and practices (and even bubbles of three-to-five years) where it really is all about the quality of the work.

But just as the locus of attention for the people in the big firms is internal — it’s all about relative positioning in the race for esteem, bonuses and promotions (and that’s not all bad), so the thinking is shaped, inexorably, by the business model. Methods have to be complex enough to be out of the reach of clients’ day-to-day, but simple enough to be saleable — and susceptible to step-wise ‘methodology’ which can be given to young grads just out of business school. And that’s never mind the contortions they go through to benefit from their legal registration as, say, a verein (an obscure Swiss sporting association), or the VAT benefits accruing to expenses claimed through a Limited Liability Partnership structure, or the cashback accruing to the partner’s pension fund through the use of the corporate Amex charge cards. (Those pension funds, by the way, turn out to be quite important — for much of the history of the big firms, the partners have overhwelmingly been men. And they haven’t been shy of entering into second (or third) marriages, usually with much younger women. Who then happily outlast and outlast them, on the generous partner’s pension for a lifetime…)

To be an indie consultant, you have to care. You have to be a little bit obsessive. Very tough. And almost certainly almost pathologically anti-authoritarian. But to survive, you have to combine basic organisational competence in your own affairs, basic social competence in dealing with people, and basic reliability in delivery. These features combine to offer a hugely valuable chunk of slightly-weird, low-consensus thinking that actually works.

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The indie approach offers an alternative perspective to traditional consulting

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