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Cartoon about brainstorming

Consultant, Innovate Yourself

Seven Things Every Creativity & Innovation Consultant Should Do

If you are a consultant or trainer in the field of innovation; if you are someone who helps clients generate and implement ideas, you clearly believe in the importance of innovation in business today. So, I hope you are also using creativity to innovate your own business! Because -- and let us be honest here -- one of the least creative business fields today is the field of innovation consulting. Many consultants, but not you of course, continue to use methods that are decades old and fear trying new things because the age-old way is the way innovation consultants have always done it!

That attitude needs to change. Here are some suggestions for innovation consultants to innovate their own businesses.

1. Apply your methods to your business

This is the easiest thing you can do: apply the methods you use with your clients to your own business! If these methods help your clients, surely they will also help you. Better still, trying to apply your own methods to yourself is a great way to test them, find their weaknesses and work out ways to overcome those weaknesses.

2. Break some rules

Breaking rules is an important part of creativity, is it not? Go ahead and break a few rules yourself and see what happens. As an example, one of the key rules of brainstorming, creative problem solving (CPS) and many derivatives of these methods is that during idea generation there is to be no criticism of ideas. All ideas must be welcome. As I have written in the past, research has actually demonstrated that allowing people to criticise ideas during brainstorm-like idea generation actually results in a higher level of creativity. Nevertheless, most creativity consultants refuse to break this fundamental rule of brainstorming and, instead, criticise the research (often without having read the paper).

Instead, as a creativity consultant, why not break this rule of brainstorming yourself and see what happens. Don't worry. The world won't end. You won't burn in hell. Instead, you'll learn something. Maybe you won't like it. Maybe you will. But the only way to learn is to try it!

There are many other rules in the field of creativity and innovation consulting. Look at them and try breaking them now and again just to see what happens.

3. Experiment

Following on the first suggestion, experiment! Try out new techniques. A lot of creativity consultants hate anticonventional thinking (ACT) and I get regular mails and comments in forums about how it is a terrible method and how I should use and creative problem solving like everyone else. But these people have never even tried ACT! On the other hand, many innovation managers in larger organisations like ACT a lot and a growing number of consultants are finding that ACT works very well and that they can mould it to suit their style. The thing about ACT and other new methods in creative thinking and innovation is you can try them and experiment with them without suffering in any way, shape or form! Even if you do not like the methods you experiment with, you will learn something that you can apply to your existing toolbox of methods.

Try new methods, make up your own methods, break rules. Do all of these things just to see what happens.

Understandably, you may not want to experiment with paying clients -- at least not initially (although I always include some new, experimental ideas in every workshop I do). So put together a small group of friends, associates or others to act as guinea pigs. Then try out new ideas with them and ask for honest feedback afterwards.

You could go one step further and launch an Imagination Club. The original Brussels Imagination Club is a non-profit group that does exactly that: it provides a platform for facilitators and trainers to experiment with new ideas in front of a receptive, international audience. For facilitators, it is a safe place to experiment; for the audience, it is a low cost opportunity to be introduced to new ideas, learn and meet other creative people.

4. Provoke

Provoke people and yourself. It's scary, but inspiring. I do it from time to time, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. Provoking people forces them to question their assumptions and see alternatives. Many people do not like being provoked and will close their minds and criticise the provocation as well as the person delivering it. That can be hard. Others, however, will think. They will question their assumptions and see things differently. That inspires creativity.

Moreover, if you provoke others, you know you have come up with a powerful idea. People are not provoked by timid ideas. Only powerful ones. So, don't be hurt if people respond negatively to your provocation. Be proud. You've achieved something.

But, go one step further. Provoke yourself or find ideas that provoke you and challenge the assumptions you hold dear.

Provocation is important. If you look at innovation groups on LinkedIn, Twitter exchanges between consultants and other social media places where innovation consultants gather, you will find the many of us are a conforming, mutually self-congratulatory lot who say a lot of the same things. It is all too comfortable for true creativity. We all need to be provoked regularly. You could be the one to provoke us.

5. Rethink Your Business Model

Business model innovation is a great thing, right? You've very possibly recommended it to a client. So, stop and look at your own business model -- especially in this competitive business environment in which too many creativity and innovation consultants are chasing after too few projects. An innovative new business model could make you more interesting to potential clients. Better still, the process of devising and implementing the change will be a fantastic learning opportunity.

6. Build Something

Build something that is uniquely yours. It might be a method, a product, a book. It does not matter. Build it and own it. Take pride in having your own, unique product. After all, innovation is the implementation of creative ideas in order to generate value. Once you have built something uniquely yours and have sold it to a client, you are no longer a mere consultant. You are an innovative innovation consultant! You are innovative!

7. Unique Selling Proposition

Every business should have a unique selling proposition (USP); a characteristic that makes that business stand out from the competition. What's your proposition? How do you differ from all the other creativity and innovation consultants vying for business? If your speciality is creativity, then your clients and I expect a truly unique USP; we expect something creative, something that proves you do not simply rehash decades old creativity and innovation theory, but that you are creative yourself; that you have applied creativity to your own business and have built something unique.


Clearly, a good innovation consultant should regularly innovate her business. And, if you are looking for an innovation consultant or facilitator for your business, I suggest you ask her how she innovates her business before asking her how she'll innovate yours.

Want to Discuss This With Me?

If so, get in touch. I'd love to chat about it with you!

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




My other web projects

My other web projects 100s of articles, videos and cartoons on creativity - possibly useful things I have learned over the years. reflections on international living and travel. - paintings, drawings, photographs and cartoons by Jeffrey