Double-loop Learning for Consultants: Moving Beyond the Quick Fix


GettyImages 154966273_Woman_with_file_folderConsultants have short attention spans. We like to get in, get it done, and get out again so we can move on to the next project. This is in part because we bore easily and the grass looks greener in our next project but it is also due to our continued need for new business. Unless we return for a repeat performance, we get limited feedback from our clients and can neither judge the full effect of our work or nor learn what happened afterwards.

Because our skills are technical in nature, as time passes we develop a repertoire of assumptions, methods, and techniques which make it increasingly difficult to be open to the complexities we face. The mental models that guide our actions become more rigid and can result in what SchÓ§n calls a parochial narrowness of vision. We find ourselves offering solutions in search of a problem.

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So What Makes a Good Proposal?

Young Girl with LaptopWhen you write a proposal, you want to show off your knowledge, your creativity, and your cool technology. Clients want something much simpler. They want what they asked for, in the order they asked for it, using the language and terminology they used in their Request for Proposals (RFP). While this seems like a no brainer, reviewers have told me over and over that at least 70% of proposals do not follow instructions and do not address the criteria outlined in the RFP. Sadly, all of these end up in the reject pile. The good news for you is that you can cut your competition to 30% in a single blow by giving the clients what they want.

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Networking Favorites with a Little Help from Julie Andrews

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Some well-established consultants told me recently that they still get most of their work through networking. As the government bidding environment seems to be less and less welcoming for independent consultants, this is good news indeed. So let me tell you why networking reminds me of brown paper packages tied up with string and why Julie Andrews seems to run breathlessly across my screen caroling the name of my next favorite contact.

In the 1960’s Stanley Milgram chose random people from the Kansas and Nebraska phone books and asked them to forward brochures through a chain of acquaintances to an individual in Boston. The brochures that made it took about six referrals to get there; hence the urban myth of six degrees of separation.

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"Answering Important Social Questions"