The unlikable tendencies of a consultant

opportunity-15Consultants tend to be contrarians by nature. It’s a common characteristic of people attracted to an industry that exists to change things. Contrarians have an innate desire to be skeptical, take opposing viewpoints, and want to do things differently. Although it can be slightly irritating for others in a social setting, it’s very helpful when you are looking for opportunities in a business.

Many of the training programs and tools consultants use are designed to help challenge why something is the way it is with a desire to make it better in some way. One of the tools we find useful, and will be particularly helpful if being a contrarian isn’t your natural tendency, is a mnemonic called SCAMPER which was developed decades ago by Alex Osborn and Bob Eberle. The tool is simply a problem solving guide to get you thinking about how you could improve any product or process. Here is a simple example of some questions applicable to any process:

Substitute Can the service be delivered with less expensive resources?
Combine Can you combine positions or functions?
Adapt Are there any ideas that can be adapted from other industries?
Modify Can the process be modified to make it faster?
Put to another use Can the space or equipment be used at other times for other purposes?
Eliminate Can some of the process steps be eliminated?
Rearrange Can the process be re-sequenced to make it more effective?

The key is to try to think of these questions when you are actually observing or studying the process. That’s harder than it sounds if your brain isn’t naturally wired that way. We see a lot of analyses that aren’t actually very analytical. They could be better described as “capturing data”, as opposed to actually analyzing something to see if it could be improved. Sometimes you need to force yourself to take a contrarian’s viewpoint.