Stop Asking Consultants to Give You the Answer

Our clients are increasingly buried in work, and their schedules are always booked solid. As we work with them to understand their needs, they frequently ask us, “Why can’t you just give us the answer?”
 
We will tell you what we tell them: “Our experience clearly shows the best answers come from co-creating the solution with your teams. When you hire someone to give you the answer, you give away the most powerful tool you have.”
 
Your own employees and colleagues know what’s broken, and they have clear ideas about how to fix it. They usually come up with more useful solutions. People support what they help to build. This is the biggest reason to engage your teams. That means co-creating it with your people makes them instant advocates, and even evangelists, for those solutions.
 
Co-creation in product development may mean collaborating with customers or partners to develop new and better products. Inside of organizations, co-creation means engaging your employees to design better internal solutions.
 
At XPLANE, co-creation means bringing together a cross-functional team to discover, design, and iterate a solution. Over the years, we’ve heard every reason why co-creation won’t work. Here are the top three:
 

“We don’t have time.”

Co-creation requires those team members to dedicate time to focus on discovery. If an organization needs new ways for teams to improve processes, it takes time for them to get into a room for 1-2 days and map out how they will work together, hand-off projects, and make decisions.
 
Co-creation is one of the best ways to both develop workable solutions and activate them. The Harvard Business Review says, “The key to improving experiences is letting stakeholders play a central role in designing how they work with one another.”
 

“Our people can’t do this.

Co-creation helps develop the best solution because people know internal processes; structures; systems; and more importantly, they know the shortcuts and barriers. Most of the time, people have already thought of ways to improve a process or work across functional teams. What they may need is a forum to share across silos.
 
Working together to design a better way to work builds empathy across silos, so it’s infinitely easier to break them down.
 
A mid-level manager from a large technology company told us that executives wanted teams to collaborate more, so the organization could move more quickly. She said what those team members saw were processes and roles that kept them siloed and bottlenecks in the decision-making process that paralyzed progress.
 
She said the team members knew exactly what they’d do to solve those challenges, and they had some solid, actionable ideas. But, no one had asked them. Executives brought in a consultant who presented a lengthy document full of buzzwords, and only some of the steps made sense for their organization. It’s no surprise that only a few of the recommendations have been put into practice.
 
There are times when subject matter experts might share best practices, benchmarks, or recommend systems or tools. The key is to give your teams that learning and then co-create the solution.
 

“This will take too long.”

Co-creation is the best way to align and jumpstart any change. Once a cross-functional group of people has a say in designing a new process or clearer roles and responsibilities, they go back to their teams and advocate for it.
 
We see teams begin to buy in and own a new customer experience or corporate strategy as they tweak it and work cooperatively to fit the pieces together in the discovery session. That alignment is critical. Teams don’t end up confused or misunderstanding each other and then head off in different directions.
 
Crucially, those team members return to their functional groups ready to explain, teach, and promote the new plan. This is the secret sauce of co-creation because those participants jump-start activation. We even encourage organizations to include a couple of naysayers in the session to get them on board as supporters.
 
So even though it seems like you’d save time if we gave you the answer, ultimately, you save time and have a better solution if we help you and your team co-create it.