The most important question in modern knowledge work to ask yourself is “So what?”
The job of a great consultant is not just to repackage information. It is to put that information into the client’s context and then give them actionable information about what they should do next.
Let’s say I’m an advertising executive. I’ve hired you to analyze my advertising spend. Like many clients, I don’t have a good idea of what I’m really solving for. That’s why I’ve hired you!
I tell you to dive into the data and see what you find. If you show me that one marketing channel is outperforming another, it will certainly be an interesting chart to look at, but I’ll also be asking in my head, “So what?”
The challenge in consulting is that often the client AND the consultant don’t actually know how to work together. The client doesn’t know which questions to ask to get the consultant to magically read their mind and the consultant often is waiting for orders about what to do next. The same pattern can apply to a knowledge professional and a manager.
The best “think like a consultant” thinkers are ready for this though. They’ve put themselves in their client’s shoes and obsessively asked over and over again, “So what?” to themselves as they analyzed the data.
So, you turn to the advertising executive and say, “You’re probably thinking, what do I do with this information,” and then outline your approach for some of the options for how they can increase spending on the new channel.
Almost every company I’ve done workshops for has the same problem: they don’t ask “So what?” They can create tons of high-quality end products and execute requests from clients with fancy charts and analyses. But when I ask them what the point of their 30-page deck is, they pause and realize that they haven’t thought about it.
To your client, they just want to know how to do what they are doing better. While they might not be good at asking the right questions or might expect you to go through some level of hoop-jumping to create fancy reports for them, they are only going to hire you again or want to work with you again if you make their jobs easier and tell them why things are important.
So remember. Ask yourself while working on things:
And then tell them.
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